Playing game with COVID-19

The Government of Liberia’s poor handling of the first officially confirmed case of the deadly coronavirus in Liberia is not only worrisome, but highly irresponsible.

President George Manneh Weah in a nationwide address Monday, 16 March reported that Liberia has recorded its first confirmed case of COVID-19, involving the executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Nathaniel Blama, who chose not to be quarantined by health authorities at the Roberts International Airport in Margibi County after testing positive immediately upon arrival.

Mr. Blama arrived here Friday night, 12 March via Air Brussels from an international conference in Europe. The authorities say other officials who were with him on the same flight are being traced for quarantine to avoid spread of the infection.

We are disappointed by news that the EPA boss also refused to board ambulance that went to his residence to take him to an observation center; instead, preferring to ride behind the health convoy in his official vehicle. Health Minister Doctor Wilhemina S. Jallah, briefing reporters Monday, said Mr. Blama “slipped thru” health regulations at the airport and went home.

Are we serious in fighting the COVID-19 and protecting the public from mass infections that could wreck this country that is already faced by poor health system due to lack of capacity? Or is the current scenario a smokescreen to attract international sympathy, solidarity and support?

Why would a government with well intension to avoid its citizens from getting infected and dying allowed officials to willfully ignore and defile regulations and public safety measures? President Weah should go beyond mere suspension and have Mr. Blama charged and prosecuted for his uncouth behavior and display of wicked arrogance.

The National Public Health Institute of Liberia should strengthen and enforce its surveillance measures without fear or favor, for disease knows no border. From Wuhan, China the COVID-19 has spread to over 10 countries globally, including the United States. Death tolls in the U.S. are in the hundreds, while Italy has lost more than a 1,000 people.

The Government of Liberia needs to put its act together and gets firm in handling the current nightmare at our doorstep, void of status. An infected Nathaniel Blama or any other person poses serious risk to the public and must be quarantined.

Besides Blama, we don’t know how many others may had “slipped thru” at the RIA or other port of entries in the country, and are posing risk to the public.
Ebola killed over 4,000 of our people between 13 and 14, wrecked the economy, and left many others parentless. The issue of COVID-19 is nothing to joke with as a country because its impacts are being felt around the world.

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