In its position statement of speculation of an imminent lockdown of the country, especial the hots zones of the deadly Coronavirus otherwise referred to as COVID-19, the opposition Liberty Party (LP) has proposed a 12-point recommendation that should be observed in an event that a lockdown becomes the ultimate decision.
In a press release issued yesterday, the LP said it is deeply troubled by the lack of any effective health program for widespread testing and contact tracing, which by the WHO Standards are imperative to controlling the spread of the virus as the country continues to record increase in cases of the of confirmed infected people with at least three deaths so far from the Coronavirus disease.
“What is even noteworthy and sad, is the fact that there are ongoing conversations for a possible lockdown of parts of the country in the absence of the government clearly explaining to the population just how prepared we are to deal with the economic drawbacks of a shutdown and or the health programs that would be executed during the lockdown,” the Party indicated.
The LP believes that any lockdown without an effective economic stimulus package for the poor and a comprehensive and effective health program, would merely injure an already poorly performing economy.
“Accordingly, we call on the Liberian Legislature to invite the health and economic authorities of our country to a special hearing that would evaluate our preparedness to go through a lockdown or curfew and as a country,” the LP asserted in the release.
As important and necessary as the hearing is in breaking the chain of transmission of the virus, the LP stressed that a lockdown or curfew must be informed by a very profound analysis of all the intricacies attendant to the lockdown.
“During the proposed special hearing, Stakeholders would assess the strengths and weaknesses of the health sector to withstand a possible lockdown and the programs that would be executed during the course of the lockdown. Authorities from the economic sector would tell us the economic pros and cons of effectuating a lockdown and state exactly whether or not we are capable of overcoming its consequences in the short-run,” the Liberty Party further explained.
The Party said Liberia’s economy contracted by 1.4 % in 2019 following a modest growth of 1.2% in 2018. Inflation reached 31.3 % in August 2019 and 26 % in 2018, and that the fiscal deficit widened by 6.2 % in 2019 while wage bill increased by 10.1 %.
On the agricultural front, the LP maintained that the agricultural sector has poorly performed. “These statistics provide sufficient reasons why we must do a cost-benefit-analysis of any plan to shut-down and to tread cautiously.
“If the costs of a lockdown or curfew would generate consequences that could surpass its benefits and prove insurmountable in the short-run, we urge the government to refrain from executing such measure,” the Liberty Party averred.
Accordingly, the party recommended amongst others, that when lockdown becomes the ultimate decision after the proposed hearing with authorities of the health and economic sectors, the lockdown should commensurate with the maximum period of incubation of the virus so that there would be sufficient time for infected persons to show symptoms and be taken for treatment, noting that this will help cut the chain of transmission before the lockdown ends.
In their 12-point proposal, the Liberty Party indicated that the scope of the lockdown be limited to Montserrado and Margibi Counties only, and that these counties should be divided into zones with health teams deployed to do awareness and mandatory testing in high risk areas. “The team should include community leaders and the police,” the LP suggested.
“That there must be a clear mandate against the use of force on people who would refuse to get tested in high risk communities or violate the shutdown, except when very minimum force becomes necessary,” the LP further asserted, and added that Civil Servants be paid for at least two months, covering March and April before any lockdown is effectuated.
The LP statement also indicated that the government should also encourage the private sector employers to pay employees before the lockdown.
The government, the Liberty Party further recommended, should give at least 72 hours’ notice before the lockdown to enable people procure basic necessities; that the NTA be seconded to provide transportation for health teams during the period of the lockdown.
“That several health stations be created across various communities to respond to emergencies, including people with preexisting health problems. There must be a clear distinctions between the teams responding to general health situations and those responding to Coronavirus emergencies.
The government, the LP accentuated, should establish an economic stimulus package for the poor during the course of the lockdown, and that multiple hotlines be established to respond to emergencies and health workers and volunteers be paid in advance to the program.
Advancing further that the government cuts down spending on foreign travels and other nonessential expenditures to invest more on procuring medical supplies for the country, the Liberty Party further said the President of Liberia should hold a regular media briefing to update the country on the status of the crisis and bring all hands on deck irrespective of political alignments.
The party furthered that the government should work with the Liberian Marketing Association to regulate trade during the course of the lockdown so that people would have regular access to food and medicine, adding that the government enters into a special arrangement with media institutions to broadcast awareness messages in all the local languages during the course of the lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Liberty Party is appealing to all Liberians to follow the advice of the government and its partners to ensure that the country effectively fight and timely defeat this global pandemic.
“Throughout our history, we have been a resilient people, and we can unite to prove our resilience on this occasion. There is no better time than now,” the Party concluded.