Monrovia — A health alert from the US embassy in Monrovia, announcing the arrival of a charter medical flight to take citizens out of Liberia, sent the capital in a frenzy Wednesday as speculations continue to heighten in the wake of the failure of Liberian authorities to find the primary source of the third Covid-19 case.
The State Department alert announced Wednesday that there were limited availability for U.S. citizens on a charter medical flight which will depart Roberts International Airport at approximately midnight Wednesday and fly to Dulles International Airport near Washington D.C.
According to the alert, priority consideration was given to older adults, people with underlying health conditions (such as diabetes or heart and lung disease), as well as other adults in need of medical assistance.
Where many Liberians became concern was the alert's declaration that the medical evacuation flight would include "COVID-19 patients in a medically approved, isolated part of the plane. In addition, there is another patient in intensive care unrelated to COVID-19."
This led many to believe that there may be more than three cases of the virus in Liberia, especially in the wake of uncertainty surrounding the fate of the primary source of the third case, regarding Lenda Russ, a senior staffer at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Russ had earlier claimed that she may have been infected by Ms. Lorraine Mason, who recently returned from Italy. The claim prompted authorities at the National Public Health Institute to test Mason but that result came back negative.
Mr. Ariturk, Selim, Public Affairs Officer, US Embassy, Monrovia, when contacted for clarification explained that exercise is a routine US State Department program to safeguard citizens of the United States.
Said Selim: "The Department of State has no greater priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas. We are rising to meet the historic challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, every day, all over the world. As of March 24, the Department has repatriated, or helped to repatriate, over 9,000 U.S. citizens from 28 countries: Algeria, Angola, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, China, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Japan, Malawi, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Uganda, and Uzbekistan."
Selim further noted that the US does not speak directly on health matters involving private individuals. "Due to privacy concerns, the U.S. Embassy does not comment on the health matters of private individuals. We believe that, given the number of cases already present in Liberia and around the world, the most prudent course of action for all persons is to heed the instructions from the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, the Ministry of Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control."
FrontPageAfrica later learned from a senior Liberian government official that the government of Liberia has received clarification from the embassy that they would not be lifting any Covid-19 patient from Liberia. However, according to speculations, the Covid-19 patients referenced in the alert is likely to be the U.S. envoy to Burkina Faso and U.S. citizens he might have come in contact with at the embassy there.
Passengers who boarded Wednesday night flight are required to reimburse the U.S. Government for the flight at a later date. "A promissory note for approximately $1,300 must be signed before boarding. No cash or credit card payments will be accepted. You will be responsible for any arrangements or costs (lodging, onward destination or local transportation, etc.) beyond your initial destination in the USA. Exact departure time and routing are subject to change. Luggage will be limited to two bags per person, 20 KG maximum."
The US embassy is meanwhile encouraging all U.S. citizens abroad to enroll in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program at STEP.State.gov and monitor the relevant Embassy's website to ensure they receive the most up-to-date information.
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
In recent days, the US has been arranging chartered flights to evacuate hundreds of Americans. Peru, Morocco and Guatemala have been among the first to benefit from the program.
Thousands of Americans have been stuck overseas as countries like Liberia and other countries around the world shut down borders to stem the spread of the Covid-19.
To date, some 5,700 Americans have been repatriated from 17 countries to the U.S. That total includes more than 800 from Wuhan, China -- the original hot zone of the virus.
On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said the State Department had brought 3,000 Americans home from countries where they were stranded.
Liberia has so far recorded three cases of the virus and several persons have been traced and currently under quarantine.
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