Liberia: Overstretched Healthcare System Possible Cause of Rising COVID-19 Cases

Monrovia — Last week, Liberia recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in a single day since the deadly contagious disease was first reported in the country on March 16, 2020.

While many have cited the increased number of testing now going on for the rapidly-increasing number, experts say the reason(s) behind the exponential increase could be due to several factors.

Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, Former Director of the National Public Health Institute and now Senior Research Associate and expert with the international health department, Bloomberg School of Public Health at the Johns Hopkins University in the U.S., says chief among the reasons, is the lack of sufficient and sustained risks communication and community engagement leading to citizens not practicing effectively the social distancing, wearing of masks and washing their hands.

The expert adds: "Another major factor could be people who are confirmed with the disease are moving around in their communities without being contact trace and isolated because no capacity to isolate them in treatment facilities."

Mr. Nyenswah says the facilities to isolate people are overwhelmed and full. "The already weak and stretched health care system is getting overstretched. Liberia is getting to an extreme edge or brink of the worst-case scenario that experts have predicted and described months ago."

He says if nothing is done drastically the cases will hit a record high of 1000 in the next 14 days which the health system will not be able to cope with. "There are already cases in the communities that are not tested but going into crowded political rallies and other forms of gatherings. Even those who are tested and confirmed including the asymptotic are not told to isolate either in their homes and monitor. This is a compound-complex situation."

Mr. Nyenswah says no amount of curfews will stop an infectious disease outbreak without employing adaptive strategies that can work. "In fact curfew is not part of the measures and response strategies to end COVID-19. One of the greatest risks factors for COVID-19 mortality is age."

Luckily, he says, the countrys' young demographic is helping suppress the deaths including the very low case fatality rate(CFR) with Covid-19. "The world is blessed again Covid is not Ebola with over 50% CFR before the outbreak ended in the 3 most affected Ebola countries in West Africa. More than half of the women (56%) and men 55% interviewed in the sample were age 30. (2019/2020 Liberia demographic and health survey preliminary report) other factors like diabetes, obesity, heart diseases, etc are not as high as compare to countries in the West. These are some of the reasons we see low fatalities/deaths in Africa also the same case with Liberia as compare to elsewhere in the pandemic. But still high-level precautions need to be taking including whether people are not secretly burring their love ones for fear of stigmatize in a population that is lack sufficient information about the virus."

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