Health authorities here are leaving no stone unturned in the ongoing fight against novel coronavirus, including mass testing of the population as key officials lead the way.
The acting director-general of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia or NPHIL (the government institute responsible for infectious disease) doctor Mosoka Fallah, is the latest high profile health practitioner to lead an array of staff for specimens testing at the Samuel Kanyon Sports Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.
According to a post on the website of NPHIL, doctor Fallah underscores that “testing is a major way of getting communities free of COVID-19.”
The acting NPHIL boss led his staff to the testing center Wednesday, 20th May barely three days after the Minister of Health, doctorWilheminaJallah, led her deputy, who is also chief medical officer, doctor Francis Kateh, and international partners to the same venue where their specimens were taken for COVID-19 testing.
The move is an exemplary attempt to rally the public to come forth for testing in order to establish their status against the virus that has taken 23 lives with 238 confirmed cases from across the country.
Authorities of the Incident Management System and heads of partner institutions, including the World Health Organization Country Representative to Liberia, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID and AFFENET tested for COVID-19 here Sunday to encourage public response to the exercise.
The Government of Liberia has opened three centers for specimen collection, including the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville, the William V.S. Tubman High School campus on 12th Street in Sinkor and the G. W. Gibson High School, Capitol Bye-Pass, central Monrovia.
The Government of Liberia is planning an all out lockdown of communities and food distributions that would require residents to stay at home to allow mass testing of the population.
“We gather this morning to do our specimens collections in order to set examples for our citizens to follow”, said the Health Minister, who is on record for disclosing that out of a total 20 COVID-19 deaths in the country, only one occurred in the treatment center at the 14th Military Hospital along the Robertsfield Highway.
She cautions that if the coronavirus would leave Liberia, every citizen, beginning with officials must go for testing, something, which she notes, would build citizens’ trust in the health system.
Doctor Jallah explains that the decision to lead an arrayed of health officials, including the Country Representative of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization Country Representative to Liberia, Doctor Peter Clement, Liberia’s Chief Medical Officer Doctor Francis Kateh, and the head of the USAID Mission, among other is to encourage the public to come forth to give their specimens for testing.
Dr. Peter Clement of the WHO says it is important that officials of government particularly from the health sector took the lead because it will certainly encourage others.
“Our gathering here today is a clear manifestation that leaders are interested in curtailing the spread of the virus”, Doctor Clement notes.
Deputy Minister of Health and Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Kateh notes that it was very prudent to have begun the sample test with themselves rather than waiting on the public, adding, “Now that we have started this process, we want to call on our people to follow; with this, we will defeat this virus.”
Speaking earlier with ECOWAS Radio over the weekend, he explained that Ebola was not infectious as COVID-19, noting that with Ebola, you have to touch an infected person to contract the virus. “For Ebola, when a person dies, the body becomes more infectious.”
Doctor Kateh: But for COVID-19, when a person dies, we take a specimen and put the body in a black bag and have it kept, pending the test result. You can keep the body as long as you want to, once it is placed in a freezer.
Meanwhile, the Country Representative of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Doctor Desmond Williams, is optimistic that now that health officials have taken the lead, it is time for citizens to follow their leaders’ footsteps.
He emphasizes that government had made the pronouncement that people should have their samples taken for testing, and they deemed it necessary to key-start the process, so everyone should come out to do their test. Story by Jonathan Browne