Liberia Has Only One Lab Available for COVID-19 Testing

President George M. Weah (file photo).

As COVID-19 Cases reach 50

As Liberia records a daily increase confirmed COVID-19 cases, the government has disclosed that it has one testing lab available for a population of 4.4 million people.

In its 26th COVID-19 Situation Report, released Saturday, April 11, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia disclosed that the country only has one existing laboratory, located in Margibi County.

In this case, specimens from Grand Kru, which has reported cases, have to be brought to Margibi, a journey which takes two to three days for test results to be made available. And with the rainy season already in play, which causes roads leading to the hinterland to deteriorate, the journey might take longer.

There exists capacity to test for COVID-19 in country at the National Public Health Reference Laboratory (NPHRL) in Margibi. Specimens from live patients and dead cases have been promptly tested daily at the NPHRL by RT-PCR, the report said. Samples transported from designated points across the country to the NPHRL in place and are collected and tested daily as they arrived."

However, the situation report falls short to explain the number of days it takes for result to be available and how fast is the transportation of specimens from leeward counties, where bad roads slow down the process.

Currently, the number of cases of the coronavirus in the country has now reached 50, with 47 high risk cases.

The increase in cases comes as two more people were diagnosed with the virus on Saturday, just a day after 11 new cases were confirmed in Montserrado County, on Friday, April 10. Of the total number of cases, five people have died, and 3 have recovered and 23 (5 new) individuals are in isolation.

According to the report, the "age range among confirmed cases is 8 to 74 years with median age 42 years."

The report added that the NPHIL has completed 445 (6 new) contacts out of a total number of 889 (58 new) since exposure including 129 (2 new) health workers.

"Symptomatic Contacts 13 (0 new) and {the} number of samples tested is 464 (50 new) and that public health emergency management system has been activated to level 1 at national and county levels in Montserrado and Nimba Counties," the report discloses.

Accordingly, one of the confirmed cases was imported while 47 were locally transmitted and that six of the indigenous cases have no epidemiological linkage to the index case.

However, not all the identified contacts have been reached. Health Authorities have asked contacted persons to undergo self-quarantine as a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, the NPHIL have said those who recovered from COVID-19 are monitored in POC for 14 days before going home--and that work has begun at the Police Training Academy to be used as quarantine centers.

The report added that NPHIL will soon embark on increasing psychosocial support to persons being followed up and that "additional contact tracing teams are expected to be trained and deployed."

"More education for those in self-quarantine to adhere to the quarantine rules, and update public health advisories.

The sudden increase in COVID-19 Case comes days after Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, Minister of Health, issued a warning that the situation may worsen if Liberians continue to disregard the government's preventive health measures agains the virus.

Also, President George Weah has declared a State of Emergency by which all Liberians, except essential workers, are told to remain at home as strategy to contain the spread of the virus.

"My fellow Liberians, although our health team is working assiduously to complete the testing of scores of contacts, let us recognize that the COVID-19 virus has now entered a new phase in our country as we move from protection to containment. The dynamics of our management of the disease have been significantly changed. There will be required additional strong measures to delay the spreading of this highly infectious virus and keep our public safety," President Weah said on Wednesday when he announced the state of emergency.

Essential workers include: health workers, security personnel and workers in the food and telecommunications industries. State security office will enforce the State of Emergency, which began April 10 at 11:59.

Although Health Authorities are tight-lipped on the location of the new cases, Sinkor, Airfield, Matadi, Barnesville, Brewerville, Duport Road, GSA Road, Logan Town and Mamba Point, have all reported cases. Other areas that have cases include New Georgia, Old Road, Red Light, Rehab, West Point, ELWA and Vai Town. Even Nimba County (northern Liberia) has reported a new case.

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