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Total lockdown imminent

Reports reaching the New Dawn newspaper indicate that there is going to be a total lockdown of communities following the distribution of COVID-19 response food packages to enable health workers move in to test for the virus.

As at May 13, 2020, Liberia has reported 215 confirmed coronavirus cases. Of this number, the country has reported 20 death and 105 recoveries with 90 active cases.Liberia is in the third phase of 14 days lockdown imposed by the administration to ease the spread of the virus as extensions of the lockdown measure became necessary here due to continuous reports of new cases of the virus.

Authorities here say health workers have identified some of the hot spots and those areas will be among the food recipient communities to enable mass testing for the virus.
Though it is not clear how long the total lockdown will last for, officials say it would depend on the number of days it will take for distribution and testing to be completed in a target community.

Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh who chairs the Liberian Government’s Steering Committee for the Household Food Support Program told this paper Thursday, May 14, 2020, that the food distribution which is expected to commence on the 23rd of this month will begin at 3pm to ensure that community dwellers are within their respective communities to be able to receive their food packages.

Minister Tarpeh also told this paper that his committee will rely heavily on community leaders to work with the World Food Program for the food distribution.He said the committee is expected to host a major press conference today (Friday May 15, 202) to spell out how the food distribution will be carried out.

It could be recalled that President George Weah a month ago presented a stimulus package before the Liberian Legislature to provide emergency relief to citizens here during the country’s State of Emergency. An amount of US25 million was earmarked to cover the entire stimulus package, which includes emergency food distribution, electricity and water supply, hazard pay for medical workers etc.

However, since the rectification of the resolution by the National Legislature, which did not only approved the President’s State of Emergency (SOE) but also extended the SOE by 60 days with a controversial USD 6, 500 payoff to members of the Senate-which some say was payment of overdue operational funds, while others said it was their sitting fees.

The Steering Committee comprises government officials, media organizations representatives, opposition members and the World Food Program. According to Mr. Tarpeh, the distribution will be modeled after the former Special Emergency Life Food (SELF) food distribution program.

“We will begin with the initial four affected counties-Montserrado, Margibi, Nimba and Bong Counties,” Minister Tarpeh was quoted to have said in a statement issued on May 3rd.
He further stated that the remaining 11 counties will be included in the food distribution program at a later stage.

Minister Tarpeh also noted that in order to keep the wheels of the economy turning during this period of emergency, the Committee has decided to include local farm produce such as palm oil, red beans etc, as part of the food package. He opined that the move is to empower local farmers. “This is intended to empower our local farmers economically as we battle the pandemic,” said Tarpeh.

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