The Mayor of Paynesville City Corporation (PCC), Pam Belcher-Taylor, has said that the City Corporation is staying vigilant as the fluid COVID-19 situation continues to unfold, assuring residents of the city to remain calm and abide by all preventive health protocols that have been issued by the government through the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL).
She further assured that all essential city services will be carried out as usual during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Mayor's assurance and caution come in the wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country. The government has already announced two positive cases of the virus--the suspended Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who was the first to have been announced positive of the disease, and one of his domestic workers identified as Johnny Philips.
Out of the two cases, the government has traced 127 contacts -- 23 of which are categorized as high-risk. The contacts, according to the government, included the driver and the security of the suspended boss of EPA and another person who is said to have accompanied Blama to Switzerland.
In the wake of these developments, there is a looming fear that the country is still at risk of a major spillover from the two coronavirus cases because of the huge number of contacts and persons at high-risk.
She said while she is not in any way diminishing the severity of the situation, she is equally urging residents to "take a deep breath" and stay calm. She called on them to observe social distancing procedures as indicated by the health authorities.
She described the global outbreak of Coronavirus as 'unprecedented' and could be the world's greatest challenge yet, not just Liberia or Paynesville.
She said residents need to show support and compassion as a community, though Paynesville currently has no confirmed cases of the illness.
Paynesville City is the country's largest city in terms of both population and landmass. The city is also known for its robust commercial activities as it also hosts one of the nation's largest commercial hubs, the ever-busy Red-Light Market.
The city is to subsequently activate its emergency management policies and procedures, and both city personnel and Paynesville Council members are preparing to take necessary actions toward maintaining daily operations with priority on public safety.
There are no cases reported of the virus in Paynesville. He also said local leaders have been called upon to remain vigilant.
As far as city service is concerned, the municipal authorities have given assurance that garbage pickup, public works, and public safety will continue as normal -- aside from emergency responders possibly wearing additional protective equipment.
Those with COVID-19 symptoms, or who have had a history of possible exposure or are part of a vulnerable population, might be asked by public safety officials to distance themselves or wear a mask.
The Municipality has begun sending home many employees in nonessential city departments. The Mayor said no restaurants, bars, or any other public gatherings have been ordered to close yet in Paynesville and the city would rely on the direction from the central government as the health authorities would advise.
She said the city would likely cancel all public events as the situation unfolds, but city officials have at least discussed the fate of large community events like weddings, concerts, soccer tournaments, and others.
"We're too far away to make those decisions. We cannot do these on our own. We will see what the government will be doing," Johnson said.
"This has been a really tough 24 hours for us Liberians," Belcher-Taylor said. "We're committing to giving you as much information as we have available," she said.