It was an all-time daily record of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on December 16 in Liberia. The spike comes one week after the elections concluded in Liberia, during which widespread disrespect of health protocols was observed throughout the nation.
On December 8, 2020, Liberians went to the polls to cast their ballots in the Special Senatorial Elections, National Referendum and the by-elections for the House of Representatives, mainly ignoring the fact that the country is in the midst of a pandemic.
According to the Johns Hopkins University, Liberia registered two of the highest daily record cases of new COVID-19 infections on December 3, with 68 cases and on December 16, with 97 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19. Liberia has a total of 1,779 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 83 deaths, but the numbers are significantly higher as the people refuse to report symptoms and the ill due to fear of isolation and quarantine.
On December 16 Liberia recorded an all-time high number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Enthusiastic voters, including first-time voters, health-challenged elderly voters and people living with disabilities, ignored the warnings of a superspreader event, took to the voting centers on December 8 without masks, social distancing, or handwashing, the three important measures that can help stop the spread of the virus.
The National Elections Commission (NEC), while it encouraged people to adhere to the health protocols, it made it clear that no one will be prevented from voting on the reasons of not wearing a facial mask.
Moreover, the majority of polling centers visited by this newspaper lacked a digital thermometer to measure the temperature, as fever is the primary indicator that a person may be ill.
This reporter visited more than a dose polling centers, including Gbarnga Sports Stadium that has over 3,796 registered voters; the John Flomo Bakalu center with 3,952 registered voters; N.V. Massaquoi with 3,851 registrants; Lelekpayea Public School with 3,253 registered voters; J.F. Clark Kindergarten with 3,998 registered voters, among others. The numbers of total registered voters are according to NEC official reports.
Hannah Flomo, a first-time voter in Bayata, electoral district number 2, was not aware of the health protocols, and in her family a mask is considered a luxury. “I never knew whether people should wear nose masks before voting, so I did not take my father’s nose mask to come and vote.”
The World Health Organizations advises that masks should not be shared among people, and there are extremely strict rules on how to wear a facial mask in order to prevent the spread of the deadly virus:
Clean your hands before you put your mask on, as well as before and after you take it off, and after you touch it at any time.
Make sure it covers your nose, mouth, and chin. When you take off a mask, store it in a clean plastic bag, and every day either wash it if it is a fabric mask, or dispose of a medical mask in a trash bin.
Thirty-six years old Mary Sumo, from Foequelleh, Panta district, said that she cannot afford a nose mask or hand sanitizer, a situation most people in poor countries face. A piece of tailored nose mask is sold for 50 Liberian dollars, while a small bottle of hand sanitizer costs 250 Liberian dollars.
In 2014, the House of Representatives agreed with the Liberian Senate to set the daily minimum wage for skilled workers at US$6.00, which totals US$186.00 or an equivalent of LRD29, 760 per month, while unskilled and domestic workers are subject to US$4.00 per day, amounting to US$124.00 or an equivalent of LRD19, 840 monthly.
The legislation affects all sectors of the economy, including government and concessionaires.
Two staff of the NEC, who preferred not to be named for fear of retaliation, noted that wearing of nose masks or carrying disinfectants were not required, as the NEC had earlier announced they were not mandatory.
By J. Peter S. Dennis (LMD Fellow)