Monrovia — The opposition Liberty Party (LP) is recommending to the government that civil servants be paid for at least two months, covering March and April before any lockdown is effectuated. The LP recommendation is in response to rumors about an anticipated lockdown of Montserrado and Margibi Counties.
The party in a statement, also recommended that the government gives at least a 72-hour notice before the lockdown to enable people to procure basic necessities. They also recommended that the National Transit Authority be seconded to provide transportation for health teams during the period of the lockdown.
"We believe that any lockdown without an effective economic stimulus package for the poor and a comprehensive and effective health program, would merely injure an already poorly performing economy," Liberty Party stated.
LP is also recommending that several health stations be created across various communities to respond to emergencies, including people with preexisting health problems and that there must be a clear distinction between the teams responding to general health situations and those responding to Coronavirus emergencies.
"The government should establish an economic stimulus package for the poor during the course of the lockdown. That multiple hotlines be established to respond to emergencies and health workers and volunteers be paid in advance to the program.
LP also wants government cut down spending on foreign travels and other nonessential expenditures to invest more on procuring medical supplies for the country and that the president of Liberia holds a regular media briefing to update the country on the status of the crisis and bring all hands on deck irrespective of political alignments.
Opposition Liberty Party also wants government work with the Liberian Marketing Association to regulate trade during the course of the lockdown so that people would have regular access to food and medicine and that the government enters into a special arrangement with media institutions to broadcast awareness messages in all the local languages during the course of the lockdown.
"As Liberia continues to record increase in cases of the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak with at least three deaths so far, Liberty Party is deeply troubled by the lack of any effective health program for widespread testing and contact tracing, which by the WHO Standards are imperative to controlling the spread of the virus.
"What is even noteworthy and sad, is the fact that there are ongoing conversations for a possible lockdown of parts of the country in the absence of the government clearly explaining to the population just how prepared we are to deal with the economic drawbacks of a shutdown and or the health programs that would be executed during the lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Party has called on the Liberian Legislature to invite the health and economic authorities of the country to a special hearing that would evaluate Liberia's preparedness to go through a lockdown or curfew and as a country.
As important as it is, and which the Party believe is necessary in breaking the chain of transmission of the virus, a lockdown or curfew must be informed by a very profound analysis of all the intricacies attendant to it.
According to the political party, during the proposed special hearing, Stakeholders would assess the strengths and weaknesses of the health sector to withstand a possible lockdown and the programs that would be executed during the course of the lockdown. Authorities from the economic sector would tell us the economic pros and cons of effectuating a lockdown and state exactly whether or not we are capable of overcoming its consequences in the short-run.
"In an event that a lockdown becomes the ultimate decision after the proposed hearing with authorities of the health and economic sectors, Liberty Party recommends the following actions, taking cue from WHO advice, experiences from other countries, and following consultations with independent professionals:
"That the lockdown period commensurate with the maximum period of incubation of the virus so that there would be sufficient time for infected persons to show symptoms and be taken for treatment. This will help cut the chain of transmission before the lockdown ends;
"That the scope of the lockdown be limited to Montserrado and Margibi Counties only. These counties should be divided into zones with health teams deployed to do awareness and mandatory testing in high risk areas. The team should include community leaders and the police."
LP also wants a clear mandate against the use of force on people who would refuse to get tested in high risk communities or violate the shutdown, except when very minimum force becomes necessary.
"As we go through this crisis period, Liberty Party appeals to all Liberians to follow the advice of the government and its partners to ensure that we effectively fight and timely defeat this global pandemic. Throughout our history, we have been a resilient people, and we can unite to prove our resilience on this occasion. There is no better time than now."