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Lockdown or curfew?

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Incidents of state security forces chasing, beating both food sellers and buyers out of market places, and further forcing residents from their porches to stay indoors are prompting questions here if Liberians are under curfew or a lockdown as government combats coronavirus.

Both food sellers and buyers were chased and beaten up in the Redlight Market in Paynesville on Saturday, 11 April, marking the first day of the enforcement of the 21 – day State of Emergency declared last week by President George Manneh Weah which exists throughout the country to quell the increasing coronavirus cases here.

Officials may have to explain more if there is a curfew preventing movement of locals in their communities after 3:00pm, given the apparent conflict with enforcing the measure after President Weah gave the public green light to … “essential journeys for reasons of health and food, which should be restricted to their local community only.”

Over the weekend, Monrovia and its surrounding were like a ghost town, as state securities, including the Armed Forces of Liberia took over the streets and corners of the city to ensure that residents here were observing the measures.

There were reports of securities chasing and flogging residents in the Redlight Market, Paynesville, Gardnerville, Clara Town and other parts of Montserrado County as securities prohibit those without Covid19 access pass issued by government from walking around in their local communities or sitting on their porches after 3:00pm, with homes closest to main streets mostly affected.

Under the lockdown which seems to be a curfew, there remains a question as to how these law enforcement officers intend to deal with residents wanting to leave their homes to use the rest rooms or to fetch water for instance, given initial reported encounters in Clara Town and other areas where some residents complained of being chased on Saturday by securities while going out to ease themselves. Clara Town is a slum community, where most home rely on public toilets.

Most homes in parts of Montserrado, especially the slum communities are built without rest rooms or running water system, with lot of people who want to use the latrine or to fetch water from wells outside of their homes would require going a little distance away from their homes but would have to face securities, whom residents complained chased them away.

These encounters and other incidents have prompted an outcry during the first two days of the lockdown, with residents calling on the authorities to ensure that water and electricity are supplied constantly to keep the quarantined population lively, especially for those connected to the national power grid.

There have been calls from the public for authorities here to ensure that the quarantined population is provided safe drinking water to prevent any other outbreak of water – borne disease at a time Liberians are battling against coronavirus with a weak health system.

Issuing the “Stay at home” order last week, President Weah instructed that under this State of Emergency, all Liberians and residents within the borders of Montserrado County, Margibi County, Nimba County, and Grand Kru County are to STAY AT HOME for the next 14 days, beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020.

As at Sunday, 12 April, Liberia had reported five coronavirus deaths and about 50 cases of the disease.By Winston W. Parley

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