President George Manneh Weah, in a nationwide address yesterday, March 16, 2020, announced that despite government’s precautionary measures to protect Liberia’s borders and ports of entries, the country has recorded its first confirmed case of the deadly Coronavirus. The President, notwithstanding called for calm and requested that any suspicious medical behavior should be reported to the authorities for the safety of the communities and Liberia at large.
The President who named the infected person as Dr. Nathaniel Blama, the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also said Blama who arrived in Liberia on Brussels Airlines last Friday night along with several other officials of Government traveling on the same flight, chose not to be quarantined, in keeping with the health protocols that are in place at the airport.
The President in a sad mood, also disclosed in a nationwide broadcast that an intensive tracing exercise is underway to identify and test all persons who came in contact with the EPA boss; ordering that all other persons who traveled on that flight and by-passed the mandatory screening protocols, are being made to report to the health authorities immediately and without any further delay for testing.
The spread of this virus, the president said, represents the greatest threat to the health and well-being of the people of Liberia since the Ebola epidemic suffered by our country from 2014 to 2016.
Notwithstanding, the Liberian leader assured the public that the government is taking every precaution and action to protect Liberia’s borders and ports of entry long before Liberia eventually recorded the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus.
“Any other persons who attempt to by-pass screening at any port of entry will be arrested and taken into compulsory quarantine,” Dr. Weah warned; and assured the Liberian people that the situation is under professional management by the health authorities, who have adequately prepared themselves well in advance for this eventuality.
. Advising that there is no need to panic, the President requested all Liberian “to remain calm, and report any suspicious medical behavior to the authorities for our own safety”.
“It is very important that we all follow the guidelines set out by the health authorities, and adapt our behavior accordingly, noting that in view of the above, it is necessary to take certain immediate actions in response to this threat.
As the country moves from precautionary stage to containment stage of the virus. The president listed a `10-point approach and regulations that he said should be followed by residents, firstly directing that there must be a strong focus on hygiene from every individual and organization.
Amongst others, the President said everyone should wash their hands often, several times a day, with soap and running water, and use hand sanitizers, wherever available and affordable; all offices, businesses, schools, churches, and places of public gatherings should provide hand-washing facilities at their entrances, and that there should be NO HANDSHAKING whatsoever, telling the resident, “Use a nod of your head for greeting each other.”
Amongst other regulations, President Weah further postpone his impending national county tour due to this new development on the coronavirus situation; cancelled all travels to and from all countries with over 200 or more Corona Virus cases; and urged all citizens and residents to avoid public gatherings and large crowds, and try to keep a minimum social distance of at least 6 feet from people with fever, cough, sneezing, and difficulty in breathing.
Additionally, President Weah has banned all non-essential travel by all officials of government; all non-essential employees of the government are hereby granted a paid leave until further notice. The Civil Service Agency will announce the roster of employees in this category; and called on Liberians to minimize their travel within Liberia, and to and from abroad, to that which is absolutely necessary, adding that this refers specifically to cross-border traders and travelers coming to Liberia from infected countries, and applies particularly to all Government officials.
“As President, I will remain focused at the highest level of leadership and concern, until this threat has been neutralized,” he stressed.
He however craved the full support and cooperation of Liberians as the country moves from the precautionary stage, to a containment stage, adding, “we will need your fullest support and cooperation as you change your behavior to follow the simple guidelines and measures that have been recommended above.
“We will also be relying on the cooperation and support of our international partners as we work together to eliminate this deadly virus from our country,” the President concluded.