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Liberia’s COVID-19 countdown

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With latest confirmed cases of the Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia now at 73, including six deaths, the New Dawn in this retrospect reflects how the country reached this stage and how long a population of 4million people endure could an invisible virus.

The nation stood still on a cool afternoon on Monday, 16 March which was celebrated here as a public holiday or J.J. Roberts Birthday (in memory of Liberia’s first President) when President George Manneh Weah broke the news thru a nationwide address that Liberia has recorded its first confirmed or index case of the novel COVID-19, involving the executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Nathaniel Blama.

Blama had returned from Switzerland three days earlier and arrived at the Roberts International Airport on a weekend, but according to President Weah, he chose to self-quarantine at home rather than the quarantine center at the airport.

The National Public Health Institute of Liberia or NPHIL subsequently detailed that the 46-year-old index case, a resident of Cabral Estate, Monrovia on March 9, 2020 travelled to Switzerland on official duty and returned on 13 March via SN Brussels 241 airlines at about 6PM.

He exhibited symptoms (fever and unproductive cough) and reportedly “sought over-the-counter medication on 15th March from Lucky Pharmacy, 23rd Street, Sinkor.”

He then reported himself to the NPHIL on 15th March and sample was collected and tested, which proved positive. He was then taken into quarantine center for 21 days and eventually survived and discharged.

On 17th March a close contact to Blama identified as his domestic worker tested positive and was also quarantined, while the NPHIL listed 127 contacts, 23 diagnosed as high risk and 104 low risk contacts, respectively.

A third case with no link to the index case was reported by NPHIL March 21, 2020, including 275 new contacts, 49 diagnosed as high risk; 168 low risk and 58 pending classification.

Then came March 27 when NPHIL reported one suspected case from Grand Gedeh County, southeast Liberia – a 22year-old female with travel history from Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, who proved negative later. However, a total of 66 contacts were discharged from quarantine on March 27.

On March 30 NPHIL sent six suspected cases in isolation – four(4) in Montserrado, one in Grand Gedeh and one in Bong, respectively pending testing besides 434 contacts including 40 health workers documented with five (5) contacts discharged.

Two new suspected cases were identified on 2 April plus 548 contacts including 78 health workers documented the same day. The next day, one new confirmed was recorded.

NPHIL then reported three new confirmed cases including two deaths on 5 April with no suspected cases. This was followed by 11 new confirmed cases on 10th April in Montserrado County. That statistics was increased by one the following day from the same county, which brought a total of 51 confirmed cases, including six deaths with 2028 contacts including 149 health workers documented.

As of 13th April eight(8) new confirmed cases were recorded, bringing a total of 59 confirmed cases with six(6) deaths, 49 active cases and four recovered.

Hence, as of Thursday, April 16 the country has recorded 73 confirmed cases, six deaths and 623 contacts with Grand Kru County in the southeast reporting one latest case, according to Chief Medical Officer and deputy Minister of Health Doctor Francis Kateh.
By Jonathan Browne

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