Former President Ellen Johnson–Sirleaf has proposed an assessment of the impact of the coronavirus measures being put in place here to enable government make an inform decision as to whether it should continue with the measures or not.
“I think an assessment needs to be made now …and based on the current circumstances including the level of transmission of the virus then I think we can see whether additional measures need to be taken,” former President Sirleaf told France 24 in an interview on Friday May 15.
She believes that each country must judge based on its own confidence issues, cautioning that at some point one has to begin to realize that the restriction that are placed on the population don’t face some resistance, unless there are very good reasons to continue the harsh measures that are impose initially.
She says if measures are not taken to assess the impact of the lockdown and the hardship it has imposed on the citizenry, the government could lose the public confidence it needs.
“…because we also know that we impose hardship on the population – the market women, the farmers who cannot, the small businesses are all affected…that is a tolerance that cannot be stretched to its ultimate limit.” Mrs. Sirleaf warned.
She admits though that lockdowns and containment’s are necessary measures when a pandemic has hit.She states that it is necessary initially because that is the only way you can obtain the compliance and the containment measures to gain the confidence of the public that what you are doing is in their best interest.
The Former President further stated, “We all have been subjected to these lockdowns,” saying the closures have been mandated for all activities – churches, mosques, entertainment centers, theater, bars, and stores schools.
Mrs. Sirleaf suggests that in the wake of the health crisis, one also has to improve the communication and the financing to ensure that whatever that is done helps to win the public confidence.
She believes though that countries have to adopt those measures initially, but must be guided by the circumstances and be able to give full reporting, obtain reliable information on the status of the transmission of the virus and be able to act accordingly.
Mrs. Sirleaf’s second term here was faced with the Ebola epidemic that disrupted the country’s economy and exposed its poor health sector.
Meanwhile, the former president says she thinks that the government has acted in accordance with data – the information that they received from the health authorities as to the extent of the transmission.
Also, she says she believes that they used the experience of Ebola and how Liberia faced this deadly virus and the destruction and death that occurred as reasons why they were very timely in imposing these measures.
Regarding the opening of churches, Mrs. Sirleaf says her understanding is that they are looking at the situation to be able to open churches, but she hopes that before they make that final decision, they will communicate with the public.
She hopes also that the government will give the public honest, reliable reporting of the status of the pandemic by now so that they can have the confidence of the public that whatever decision they have made is in the interest of the population.
Mrs. Sirleaf also warned that the biggest challenge is yet to come. She said once the pandemic has ended, the effect on the economy is going to be awesome.
“But the biggest challenge is yet to come. Just as the case of Ebola, once the pandemic has ended, the effect on the economy is going to be awesome,” Mrs. Sirleaf says.
She continues that Liberia has not fully recovered from the destruction of the economy and so Liberians can only hope that the support that is coming now for the humanitarian gesture [would] be able to stop the virus.
She expresses belief that the African continent which has experienced the lowest number of coronavirus cases compared with the rest of the world, will continue to be able to remain relatively [low] in terms of Covid – 19 cases.“We try to wonder why and I believe some of the reasons will have to do with our climate, perhaps our genes,” she says.
Mrs. Sirleaf indicates that she also knows that as a result of the Ebola experience, many African countries have acted very timely to put in place the protocols to be able to adopt and implement measures of containment, lockdowns that require all the closures to be able to hold down the transmission. “I know that there are predictions that there might be a new wave that might increase the transmission and the cases of Africa. But I like to believe that will not be the case,” she says.
Mrs. Sirleaf observes that the reaction of the international community to Covid-19 is much improved “compared to what we faced when Ebola struck.”“This time it’s not only three, four African countries that are affected, it’s the world. So the attention of the world is much more diligent and much timely and much more responsive,” she says.
In the case of Liberia, she believes that the partners have responded in a timely manner, stressing that she understands that they are giving the technical support, not only the financial support. In a related development she calls for support in the fight against malaria, saying it kills more than any other disease on the African continent.
-Edited by Othello B. Garblah