By Francis Nyepon
The World Health Organization, WHO, has declared Coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic, instead of an epidemic. Since the explosion of the COVID-19 in December 2019, the pandemic has been spreading at alarming rates and frightening levels throughout the world. The pandemic has spread to over 100 countries, infecting over 200,000 people, and killing over 7,000. The COVID-19 pandemic has reached the heartland of the West African sub-region. Several countries in the sub-region have already recorded cases of COVID-19. Some of these countries include Togo, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Gabon, Senegal, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Elsewhere on the continent; DR Congo, South Africa, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco have all recorded cases with more yet to come. In the sub-region, Ghana has allocated a $100 million US dollars towards a Coronavirus Fund to combat the COVID-19 outbreak and also ban official travel; while Senegal, on the other hand, is set to roll out a COVID-19 test kit, which will indeed be a game-changer.
So far, Liberia has been spared the Coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, as the virus is rapidly spreading globally. As of today, Liberia is yet to report a single COVID-19 case, but is the country’s healthcare system prepared and ready to deal with this devastating public health and socioeconomic threat? Has the George Weah-led CDC Government developed a strategic plan to deal with the outbreak of this pandemic? Is the Ministry of Health and our healthcare delivery system been strengthened and health security checks put in place at the border to deal with the virus? All Liberians are aware that the outbreak of the pandemic is inevitable, and it is only a matter of time before the pandemic reaches the motherland. However, if the pandemic does hit Liberia, is the George Weah-led CDC government prepared to deal with the consequences of the catastrophic? This author is of the belief that it is incumbent upon President Weah to comprehend the fact that if COVID-19 outbreaks in Liberia, it spread could potentially cause twice as many deaths as the deadly EBOLA virus did in 2013/2014.
Liberians everywhere are concerned and extremely worried about an outbreak of the pandemic in the motherland? Consequently, the time has come for President George Weah to make public his CDC-led government’s plan to effectively deal with the COVID-19 pandemic if an outbreak occurs in the country. The cascading effect and spread of COVID-19 in Liberia will drastically disrupt daily life since the pandemic is not just a public health crisis, but a calamity that will touch every sector of the Liberian society and way-of-life. As the pandemic outbreak in Liberia rest on the brink of inevitability, the George Weah administration needs to formulate critical policy initiatives to ensure that every Liberian understands the nature of the disease and be instructed on the best ways to protect them by putting mechanisms in place for testing and quarantining to prevent the spread of the virus. Moreover, capacity needs to be developed for spraying streets, marketplaces, commercial districts, and local communities. However, incompetence, irresponsibility, and ineffectiveness cannot be allowed to overwhelm the governance process. This colossal public health and socioeconomic threat cannot carelessly be taken lightly without the realization of the enormous danger it can pose to the country. The government needs to immediately develop a game plan to get every sector and every Liberian involved in the fight against this impending public health pandemic and socioeconomic threat.
The George Weah-led CDC government needs to proactively develop a strategic plan to obstruct the spread of the pandemic once an outburst occurs. First, the government needs to set up a multi-sectoral, inter-governmental COVID-19 Task Force with the aim of formulating structural preventative measures to mitigate the spread of the virus. Secondly, policies should be put in place to encourage Liberians to suspend the renowned cultural practices of handshaking and affectionate touching, kissing and hugging to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. For example, strict enforcement measures need to be put in place for social distancing practices. Third, there needs to be the immediate distribution of test kits, ventilators, respirators, personal protective equipment, (PPEs) to healthcare facilities in all 15 counties and all bustling commercial districts and transport centers in the country. Fourth, local communities need to be instructed and educated on preventative measures to halt an outbreak and spread of the pandemic in the country.
The George Weah-led CDC government needs to educate Liberians on ways to protect themselves and avoid the traditional cultural practice of handshaking by using an elbow bump instead.
These unique customary practices used to welcome, greet, express friendship, and finalize social agreements and business transactions need to be brought to an immediate end. Liberians need to be informed that these valuable cultural practices can cause the COVID-19 pandemic to spread and breakout uncontrollably, especially in countless numbers of overcrowded communities. Market-women, day-traders, consumers, and pedestrians need to be encouraged to observe basic prevention measures like social distancing and regular hand washing with bleach. Furthermore, Liberian needs to be instructed that the COVID-19 pandemic can also be caused and spread by the common cold, cough, flew, sneezing, fever and shortness of breath. This means they cannot take the COVID-19 virus lightly, even though, the immune system of some Liberians may allow them to carry the virus with few or mild symptoms, which would allow some Liberians to move around and travel long distances with the virus, while others may suffer the complete opposite, instantly taking on heavy symptoms that can cause immense sneezing, coughing and headaches, allowing the pandemic to spread to others in their immediate surroundings.
Although this author’s prediction may be overdue, it is not a starch, however, to wonder out loud, the potential devastation the COVID-19 pandemic could bring to Liberia’s poorest people. Consequently, it is important that critical policies be formulated and implemented to inform, educate and treat every Liberian. Moreover, is the George Weah-led CDC government prepared to require self-isolation for Liberians, and ready to ban Liberians from leaving their homes except to buy food, essential supplies, and medicines or for work? Every Liberian needs to be better prepared on ways to prevent, tackle and arrest this deadly virus from spreading and killing Liberians, most especially, the innocent. Therefore, it is imperative that all Liberians continue to look out for their fellow countrymen, women and children, especially those in vulnerable groups, and those with fever, headaches, cold, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Still, others to look out for are those in local markets, entertainers and community centers. As a matter of fact, all overcrowded transport centers and bustling commercial districts need to be equipped with public mobile hand washing facilities. Finally, President George Weah should not allow corruption to undermine and deepen suspicions among Liberians regarding equal access to medical supplies, equipment, services, and treatment.
How Can Liberia Tackle COVID-19?
-The George Weah-led CDC Government needs to immediately:
-Reboot the Ebola National Disaster Management Agency;
-Establish multi-sectoral and inter-governmental COVID-19 Task Force;
-Train ambulance, taxi, and bus drivers’ how to transport COVID-19 patients;
-Train and instruct Liberians on methods of reporting and dealing with COVID-19;
-Formulate policy initiatives to ensure Liberians understands the nature of COVID-19;
-Build nationwide capacity to conduct tests for COVID-19 and public quarantine facilities;
-Provide all hospitals and health centers with the capacity to deal with respiratory issues;
-Immediately suspend all international gatherings and events as a precautionary measure;
-Secure sufficient drugs, PPEs, and medical supplies to treat Liberians affected by COVID-19;
-Educate Liberians about social distancing, self-quarantining, and total community lockdowns;
-Train local Liberian doctors, nurses, healthcare practitioners, and hygienists about the COVID-19 pandemic;
-Test all Liberian students returning from China and Europe; including Chinese and European nationals returning from vacation;
-Establish COVID-19 centers in public markets and commercial districts to monitor shoppers, consumers, pedestrians, commuters and passengers. There is no room for Negligence, Carelessness, and Incompetence
Main Photo: Coronavirus, Military Times