Monrovia — Liberia is yet to discover the source of the third confirmed Covid-19 case but the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) has announced additional three suspected cases while dealing with 390 contacts of which 45 are high-risk cases.
Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Acting Executive Director if the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) made the disclosure when he appeared before the Senate Committee on Health headed by Senator Peter Coleman for confirmation hearing.
"As of this morning, we had 390 contacts of that number 45 are high risks. What we usually do is to go after our high-risk cases; after testing, 24 of those cases are negative after first test. Once you are negative after the second test you are off the list and you are allowed to self-quarantine from home. Whether we have covered all the contacts is a tricky question to answer because it determines whether the person is saying the truth," he said.
According to Dr. Fallah, there is now twenty thousand test kits and more are expected from friendly governments to facilitate testing of suspected cases and traced contacts.
He said the Government of Liberia has made available US$750,000 and has promised to subsequently make more funds available for the fight the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Dr. Fallah has assured the Senate that under this leadership and with the current capacity of NPHIL coupled with the Ebola experience, NPHIL can manage and curtail the coronavirus such that it does not become an epidemic in the country.
Having acted in the position for several following the sudden resignation of Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah in October, 2019.
Dr. Fallah faced the Senate Committee on Health to convince the Senate on why he should be confirmed as the head of NPHIL.
He frowned on people giving fake news about the virus on social media and called for actions taken against those doing such. "The overuse and abuse of Facebook is worrisome. People still doubt that this virus is in Liberia by posting fake news on social media. Some kind of action has to be taken," he said.
He also called on political actors and the public to put differences aside and help in stopping the spread of Covid-19 by carrying out their own awareness and abiding by the health regulations.
"For once we need to suspend our differences and come together to fight this virus that is posing threat to the world." He commended the government for affording NPHIL the free space to carry out their work without interference.
In a related development, Dr. Francis Kateh, Chief Medical Officer of Liberia, has disclosed that there are 11 Precautionary Observation Centers (POC) that are currently in use, adding that a total of 165 persons are at these POCs under observation.
"For those POCs, we have graduated 234. From POC-1, 84; POC-2, 60, POC-3, 48; POC-4, 14; POC-5, 18... .," explained Dr. Kateh.
At the same time, the Chief Medical Officer has urged health workers, especially those who come in contact with regular patients on a daily basis, to be on their alert to identify COVID-19 like symptoms in order to easily track contacts.
Said Dr. Kateh: "If someone appears and they have cough, are sneezing and have cold, and fever, you have to ask further: what are the contacts they interacted with before you can carry out your normal health routine."
Ms. Lenda Russ was the third person infected with the virus. Her son, according to medical notes viewed by FrontPageAfrica, told doctors that his mom had attended a reunion beach party with old classmates on Sunday, March 8, 2020.
Russ had not traveled to hotspot country and never came in close contact with Nathaniel Blama, the index case of Coronavirus in Liberia.
The Russ case has raised several questions about the source of her infection especially with the announcement of three new suspected cases in the country.
As it stands, the chief Medical officer, said health experts have tested 69 samples, out of which, 34 results are pending.
He added that 390 persons, who came in contact with infected persons, have been tracked including 40 health workers.
The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia on Wednesday night airlifted its citizens from Liberia on a charted medical flight 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.
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."
Alline Dunbar contributed to this story.