Liberia: Public Health Institute, UNFPA Train COVID-19 'Contact Tracers', Others

Monrovia — The National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), with support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS), has begun the training of at least 100 Liberians, who are going to serve as "Contact Tracers" for anyone who may have come in some form of contact with a suspected or confirmed Covid-19 case.

According to Liberian health authorities, presently the country has three confirmed cases of those who have come down with the virus. Of these three, at least 400 contacts have been identified. These include "low and high-risk contacts." It will be the primary task of these 100 contact tracers to follow daily these 400 persons and more until they (identified contacts) are satisfied to be freed of the virus, which has become a global pandemic.

As of March 20, 2020, no new confirmed case has been reported; 390 contacts including 40 health workers have been identified.

Speaking at the opening of the training on Saturday, March 28, Mr. Thomas K. Nagbe, a senior manager at NPHIL, informed his audience that 40 of Africa's 52 countries, have now reported confirmed cases of the virus.

"If you look at the rate at which the disease is spreading you will marvel. It took 67 days to reach the first 100,000 cases. It took 11 days to record the second 100K cases; it took just four days to record the third 100K cases. And it has taken just two and half days to record the next 100K cases. So, the rate at which this disease is moving is exponentially high," he told his audience.

He scarily announced that they as epidemiologists or those with vast knowledge of covid_19, are of the believe that the disease has not yet reached its peak, even though as of this publication at least 617,417 has been affected with the virus. Of this number, 451,704 still had the virus, while 137,336 have recovered or gotten well and 28,377 have died.

Nagbe: "So, it is still moving. Ivory Coast, Ghana and Burkina Faso have recorded above 100 cases. This is one time that every one of us needs to be extremely careful."

"As contact tracers, we expect you to follow up on those contacts. You will have to make sure that you check on them twice a day; know that they are healthy, if they aren't healthy, you will have to inform the next level to be able to go and further investigate. The other level will be able to get those people out of those communities very quickly. Because if they stay in the community, their households are at risk, the entire community is at risk and the whole country is at risk," Nagbe told the contact tracers.

He urged them to take their task very seriously as they will be going to interact with people who have come in direct contact with those who have come down with Covid-19.

Speaking earlier, Professor Francis Wreh, LISGIS' Director General, spoke of how the whole world is being overwhelmed by the virus.

"The 2014 Ebola virus disease was centered around Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea; so we were able to get assistance from the outside world especially America and other areas. But America is now in serious trouble with the most number of infected cases in the world," he stated.

He urged the contact tracers to do all to prevent the disease.

Also speaking, Dr. Bannet Ndyanabangi, UNFPA Country Representative, told the contact tracers that they are going to be the "most critical links" to finding and tracing all the identified contacts and also breaking the chain of the transmission.

"So UNFPA is happy to support and partner with LISGIS and NHPIL to ensure that this works," he stated.

The UNFPA Rep. disclosed that he had been informed that following the training of the 100 contact tracers, 40 Case Investigators and Data Managers are going to be trained, too, in the coming days.

He re-emphasized that the contact tracers' job would be to trace those identified contacts and refer them.

"So, we appreciate your efforts and sacrifice. Getting involved in the fight against an infectious disease is a sacrifice; it's not about money," Dr. Ndyanabangi stated.

As he congratulated the trainees, he informed them that his specialized-UN Organ will fully support the process for at least one month.

On Monday, March 23rd, UNFPA handed over four pickup trucks, five motorbikes and 60 pieces of mobile phone to NPHIL, to support surveillance and contact tracing.

The vehicles were previously on loan at the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) as part of UNFPA's support to the conduct of the 2019 Demographic and Health Survey and upcoming Liberia Population and Housing Census. "Interruption of the Coronavirus transmission in the community is premised on the early detection and prompt isolation of new cases. During disease outbreak with established person-to-person transmission, new cases are more likely to emerge among contacts. For this reason, it is critical that all potential contacts of suspected, probable and confirmed cases are systematically identified and put under observation for the maximum incubation period of the disease," said Dr. Ndyanabangi, the UNFPA Rep had said.

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