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State of Emergency, lockdown

-as Civil Servants sent home without salary

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As the global fight against the coronavirus continues, President George Manneh Weah has taken additional restrictive measures, including declaration of a 21-day State of Emergency that is renewable and lockdown of all 15 counties for 14 days, among other precautionary actions.

The President said the State of Emergency is in accordance with Articles 85, 86, 87 and 88, respectively of the Constitution of Liberia, and following due consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, as required by law.

These measures come into force effective 11:59pm on Friday, April 10, according to the President.

But the government didn’t mention anything about salary payment for Civil Servants and other public workers, who are being sent home during this period of state of emergency and lockdown.

Addressing the nation Wednesday, 8 April President Weah said as a first step under the State of Emergency the 54th Legislature is to convene in Joint Session today, Thursday, April 9th to give justification and endorsement of the emergency thru Joint Resolution based on Article 88 of the Constitution.

“I further announce, under this State of Emergency, that all 15 counties in the Republic of Liberia are hereby quarantined from 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020, until further notice. Movements between counties are strictly prohibited. No person shall be permitted to enter or leave or in any way cross the borders of any county into any other county, except for Montserrado County and Margibi County which are quarantined as a single unit”, the President continued.

President Weah further announced that under the 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.

He has ordered the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Liberia and the Chairman of the Joint Security to enforce measures announced in the State of Emergency.

However, unlike in Ghana and neighboring Guinea, the Government of Liberia clearly ignores provision of basic services to citizens for the duration of the State of Emergency and lockdown.

Media institutions here, considered key partners in the COVID-19 fight, have been crying before the feet of the government for unpaid bills, totaling a little over US$247,000. The money is accrued from advertisements published during the past administration up to the Weah regime. But the authorities seem not to be listening despite promises made to the Publishers Association of Liberia (PAL) to pay.

The Government of Ghana is providing free water delivery and electricity for its citizens amid a lockdown, while the Guinean government has announced six months’ free water and electricity services for residents, including a freeze on rental and transportation.

But President Weah continued that throughout this period, residents may leave home only for essential journeys for reasons of health and food, which should be restricted to local community only, and limited to a single person per household for a maximum of one hour.

He said exceptions shall be made for persons who are designated as essential staff in government offices, banks, supermarkets, and other business establishments such as hotels, petrol stations, and health facilities to travel directly to work and return directly home. “All such commercial activities are to be closed no later than 3:00 p.m.”

Weah announced that all non-essential businesses and Government offices will remain closed, except essential businesses, health facilities and a few key government offices, such as the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Bank of Liberia, the National Port Authority, the Liberia Revenue Authority, the Monrovia City Corporation, and the Liberia Broadcasting System, including accredited private media with skeleton staff that will be issued passes to report for work.

The exemption also covers businesses involve in production, distribution, and marketing of food, beverages, pharmaceuticals, and medicine, as well as institutions engage in environmental and sanitation activities; members of the security forces assigned to lawful duties; essential staffs of electricity, water, telecommunications, banking, and hotels, and staff of fuel stations, respectively.

Meanwhile, hours after President Weah’s address to the nation, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia or NPHIL, which leading the COVID-19 fight along with the Ministry of Health disclosed that it has confirmed 17 new cases, as of 04:00pm Wednesday, 8th April, bringing to total confirmed cases in the country to 31, including four deaths. Story by Jonathan Browne