2 April 2014

Liberia: Senators Want State of Emergency Declared to Curtail Spread of Ebola

The deadly Ebola virus is sparking fear and panic in Guinea. The West African nation faces an epidemic as it battles to contain confirmed cases now ... ( Resource: Ebola Outbreak Sparking Panic in Guinea )

The Plenary of the Liberian Senate has mandated its leadership to consult with the leadership of the House of Representatives and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to look at the possibility of declaring a state of emergency in order to curtail the spread of the Ebola virus in Liberia.

Plenary is the highest decision making body of the Liberian House of Senate.

On Monday of this week, the Government of Liberia (GoL) through Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, confirmed the presence of the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia.

According to Minister Gwenigale, two of the five blood samples sent to Lyons, France for testing have tested positive with the Ebola virus, resulting to the death of one person.

The first Ebola or Hemorrhagic fever outbreak took place in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976 and in Sudan between 1976 and 1979.

The virus is named after a river in DR Congo. It lasts from two to 21 days and can be transmitted from person-to-person by direct or close contact with infected blood and other body fluids such as saliva, urine and sperm.

The plenary of the Senate took the decision on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 during the 22nd day sitting of the Third Session of the upper house.

The senators unanimously resolved to "take all necessary steps" to consult both the Liberian Chief Executive and the leadership of the House of Representatives following a motion filed by Maryland County Senator John Ballout.

In his motion, the Maryland County lawmaker observed that the virus is deadly and if not taken seriously, would spread across the country.

He said Liberia's borders with its neighboring countries must be closed "beginning with Guinea."

Several lawmakers also spoke in support of the motion, including Senators Sando Johnson and Geraldine Doe-Sheriff of Bomi and Montserrado Counties respectively.

Senator Johnson said the outbreak of the Ebola virus is a "very serious issue", and therefore, "the Legislature must encourage the President to address the nation" on this issue of national concern.

He said the border points of Liberia warrants closure and President Johnson-Sirleaf should speak on the matter; while medical personnel continue to combat the deadly virus in the country.

"This is a very serious, serious issue that is coming to us. We must be able to make a decision through the leadership or the President that they must today close the border not only with Guinea; I am afraid.

Guinea has similar border with Ivory Coast and that of Sierra Leone. They are very very close. And so I suggest that we close our border with these three countries immediately, beginning with Guinea; please. So the Legislature can communicate that with the President. Let's close the borders until the President can make a pronouncement.

That's what we are saying, she must be encouraged to address the nation to make a decision on this," he amongst other things stated.

For her part, Senator Doe-Sheriff expressed concern over the wellbeing of health workers treating suspected cases of patients and those admitted of the deadly virus.

She wondered whether or not safety gears were being provided to health workers in order to help combat the spread of the virus.

She admonished that the GOL must take "drastic actions" because "there is no cure" for the Ebola virus.

The Montserrado lawmaker further stressed the need for the leadership of the Senate to setup a committee to work along with the President to close the borders.

It could be recalled that recently, the Government of Senegal announced the closure of its border with Guinea due, to the outbreak of the Ebola disease in that Mano River Union state.

Meanwhile, several senators, including Peter Coleman and Isaac Nyenabo of Grand Kru and Grand Gedeh Counties respectively expressed their unwillingness to support the motion.

According to Sen. Coleman, the closure of the border has both security and economic implications.

He disclosed that health ministers from ECOWAS countries are expected to attend a meeting in Liberia next week to discuss the prevailing situation.

"Looking at the level of trade between Guinea and Liberia; trucks going here and there; that is not a health decision. It's a trade and security decision. A disciplinary team should be able to make that decision," he stated.

The Senate Chairman on Health noted that health workers are adequately protected in the field like "astronauts" to combat against the virus.

However, Sen. Coleman was seen in a furious mood when Senate Pro-Tempore Gbehzongar Findley was asking senators in favor of the motion filed by Sen. Ballout to say "make it known by saying yea."

According to the Grand Kru County lawmaker, the deliberation on the deadly Ebola virus was a serious matter that does not need a "yea" vote.

It appeared that Senator Coleman wanted the Grand Bassa County lawmaker to call for the counting of votes on the deliberation instead of endorsing a "yea" vote.

Meanwhile, the Plenary of the Senate is expected to communicate their decision to the Liberian leader and the House of Representatives shortly.

Copyright © 2014 Heritage. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.