30 July 2014

Liberia: Compulsory Ebola Steps in Liberia - Schools Shut, EJS Cancels Obama

Monrovia — The national crisis declared a state of emergency, the deadly Ebola virus which has made Liberia to be blacklisted for travel resulting to at least three major African airlines cancelling flights to the country is now being tackled head on with the announcement of stringent measures by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in battling the virus.

When the first case of the virus was reported in Foya, Lofa County, the response by the Government was slow followed by persistent denials by Liberians about the actual existence of the virus in the county but within less than six months 181 Liberians have now died from the virus resulting in renewed efforts to combat the disease.

The fight intensified after the virus was transported from the soil of Liberia to Africa most populous nation, Nigeria when Patrick Sawyer a consultant at the Ministry of Finance was confirmed positive with the virus while on official duty.

Sawyer's death was followed by the death of a veteran Liberian Doctor, the Chief Medical Officer of the referral John F. Kennedy Medical center, Dr. Samuel Brisbane and the increase in cases of suspected Ebola patients with medical facilities turning away patients.

On Tuesday, it was confirmed during a meeting with President Sirleaf by major stakeholders in the health sector that the country was gradually losing the war against Ebola as evident by the frank nature in which Liberia's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bernice Dahn and others briefed the President on the status of the ongoing efforts to battle the virus.

On Wednesday, President Sirleaf took the big decisions which had been lacking in the fight against a virus which is now spreading with fast speed in atleast six counties including Montserrado, Lofa, Bong, Bomi, Nimba and Margibi now reporting cases of the virus.

With confirmed, probable and suspected cases now reaching an alarming 360; President Sirleaf has announced several stringent measures including the closure of all schools, compulsory 30 leave for some government employees, amongst other measures to curb the spread of the virus.

"Without exceptions, all schools are ordered closed pending further directive from the Ministry of Education. All markets at border areas including Foya, Bo Waterside, and Ganta are hereby ordered closed until further notice. As previously directed, video clubs and entertainment centers must have improved sanitation including facilities for the washing of hands prior to entering and exiting as well as to restrict opening hours, and the number of individuals permitted to enter those facilities" said President Sirleaf in a special message.

The president directed that all non-essential staff, to be determined by the Minister or Head of Agency, be placed on a 30-day compulsory leave and also declared Friday, August 1, a non-working day to be used for the disinfection and chlorination of all public facilities.

The Liberian leader also ordered that all borders that are to remain opened are to be directly supervised and controlled by the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization whose duties it shall be, working with the assigned health authorities, to ensure strict adherence to announced preventive measures including preliminary testing for fever.

In further measures, President Sirleaf said "All citizens are seriously advised to avoid public amusement and entertainment centers. Increase in prices of sanitation commodities used in this fight will be treated as an offense against the people of Liberia. The Ministry of Commerce is directed to enforce this order. All such commodities including chlorine, soap, sanitizers, fliers and buckets are to be imported duty free".

She also announced that several communities are being considered to be quarantined based upon recommendations from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and other relevant authorities, ordering that when these measures are instituted, only health care workers will be permitted to move in and out of those areas as food and other medical support will be provided to those communities and affected individuals.

Five Million initial contribution

The President announced the launch of a National Action Plan presented by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in partnership with the World Health Organization with the government of Liberia making what she termed an initial contribution of US$ 5 million.

"Today, in continuation of our efforts to combat the deadly Ebola virus, I am pleased to launch the National Action Plan presented by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in partnership with the World Health Organization. Given the multi-dimensional efforts, including local, regional and international which we must bring to this fight against this scourge, the National Action Plan as presented is by no means exhaustive. However, it establishes a useful framework by which we can continue our work, as well as seek international support and assistance, as we invite the inclusions of other important aspects to the plan", said President Sirleaf.

In making the contribution, the President said "As such, the Government of Liberia is today contributing the amount of US$5 million as our initial contribution to begin the immediate implementation of this plan".

She warned Liberians that the virus is real and they should avoid denials about the existence of the virus in the country.

"My fellow Liberians, Ebola is real. Ebola is contagious. And Ebola kills. All of us must all take extra measures announced by the Ministry of Health to keep ourselves safe. The government will do its part. But you must do yours. Denying that the disease exists is not doing your part to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Hiding sick persons is not doing your part to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Ignoring the signs and not reporting it to the health care authorities are not the ways by which we keep ourselves safe".

The presence of the deadly virus in Liberia has led to several repercussions with three major African airlines including Arik, Asky and Gambia Bird all cancelling flights to the country and avoiding picking passengers from here.

Ebola Fears Abroad

Liberians living abroad mainly in the United States of America are fearing that virus could spread there since Liberians travel to the country on a daily basis.

In the US State of Minnesota which has large population of Liberians where victim Sawyer was expected to visit his family prior to his death from Ebola there is fear that the virus could reach there.

"It is killing people like crazy," said Prudence McCabe, a Brooklyn Park resident of Liberian heritage told the Associated Press. "Everyone is trying to call family members ... we are trying to send money right away. ... All we can do is pray and be helpful."

Sawyer Wife, His wife, Decontee Sawyer, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he had planned to come home for two of his three daughters' birthdays next month.

"He came close to coming here," she said. "For us here in the U.S. to think it's on that side of the world ... Ebola can come here. I don't want that to happen."

Sakui Malakpa, a professor at the University of Toledo who was in Minnesota over the weekend, said he has a ticket to travel to Liberia on Aug. 12, but is considering postponing his trip.

"My children are especially concerned," he said. "All of us Liberians are very, very worried about people, because this stuff is so infectious and it's very deadly. ... The last thing we want is for people here to be worried about us going there."

Zubah Kpanaku, chairman of the board for the Organization of Liberians in Minnesota, said his wife is currently in Liberia, helping build a house for her family. He said she is a registered nurse, so she knows how to protect herself, but she still may try to come back to Minnesota sooner than planned.

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