Liberia: Worrying Signs of Covid-19 Upsurge - Could We Draw Experiences From Ebola? A Hero's Perspectives

The small West African nation that became embroiled into the deadly Ebola virus disease quagmire could be at it any time soon. It is only a matter of hours to see an unimaginable death toll on the rise as we mournfully witnessed in 2014 after neighboring Guinea was hard hit cum cross-border travel descended on us from faraway Lofa County. Ebola forced us with an urge of cruelty to redefine true leadership in crisis moments. While we regret the deaths of so many Liberians as it were, our resolve to come together and launch a collective victory to quash an unknown enemy was indeed heroic. We mobilized our communities into action; and our people seized the moment and took ownership for the greater good.

In order to never reverse the trench, we as a nation started building structures; one of such amid partners' support is the National Public Health Institute of Liberia. Thanks to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organizations (WHO), the Africa cum West Africa Public Health Institutes et al for their continued support in ensuring - never again should people have to die on such massive a scale.

We conferred honors on our heroes and heroines, and won national accolades for the work we courageously did to save human lives. We are seemingly that heralding voice and success story in the fight against the pandemic. Foreign nations look up to Liberia for strategies that we employed to rise to the challenge and how our cogent experiences can be brought to bear in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest development of hike in what could apparently be an Indian variant in Liberia is not only troubling but worrisome. To find answers, we sought the expertise of Ebola Hero - Cllr. Tolbert Nyenswah.

The former Head of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Tolbert Nyenswah thinks amid the current upsurge - "Liberia's faces a steep-hill battle in the next three weeks in the COVID-19 pandemic response. Authorities might have let their guards down; complacency took over the COVID response. The long-tall of the outbreak, no country is out of the woods yet."

Scientifically put: "Until the last country is declared COVID-19 free by the WHO, all nations need to be vigilant. I have said it repeatedly, Liberia is ten-times more prepared for at dealing with infectious diseases outbreak today, than pre-Ebola, 2014-2016. The emergency preparedness and response structures were put in place post-Ebola. Nevertheless, using this metaphor, every good aircraft needs a good pilot, great crew, and more importantly, jet fuel to fly and deliver its passengers. The system needs sustained support! By all accounts, in recent days, the country might be facing a situation of "Clinical Iceberg" in the third wave of COVID-19."

The Senior Research Associate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of International Health averred: "A "clinical iceberg" is a term used to describe a large number of diseases or cases that go unreported or underreported. What makes it even more perilous is that the country could be dealing with the Delta variant--formally known as B.1.617.2--one of four strains to have emerged originally in India. Of recent, India and Nepal have been the global hotspots of COVID-19. Furthermore, just a month ago, the World Health Organization named the Delta variant from a "variant of interest" to a "variant of concern". Similarly, in the United States, the CDC has described Delta as a "variant of concern" as well. Additionally, researchers have found that Delta is at least 60% more transmissible within households than the Alpha strain, the dominant variant in other parts of the world, according to Public Health England."

Our Liberian internationally recognized legal scholar and a global public health expert observed: "Since the month of June, cases have been rising in Liberia, but data is paucity on the new wave. Health facilities at the brim, no intensive care units left. Oxygen is running out in hospitals. Star-base the official COVID-19 treatment facilities on Bushrod Island, established by the Government of Liberia, many patients are said to be on oxygen, and they are in severe conditions. Liberia could be facing a worst-case scenario; the community death toll might increase in the next couple of weeks, if nothing is done to quickly arrest, and reverse the looming situation. The problem of hospital beds and space are the first, and foremost crucial problem to solve now - because people are already sick in their communities."

The former NPHIL boss and acclaimed international public health practitioner noted: "Testing, identifying the cases, and tracing their contacts, are the second most crucial aspect. Health authorities need to identify sites in Monrovia to build treatment centers like we did during the Ebola crisis. At all times it is better to over-prepare. From an epidemiological perspective when there are community transmission and deaths taking place, cases spiraling out of control, the last result is to find spaces to treat the sick people. The next three weeks are crucial!"

Liberia's renowned Ebola Hero furthered; "Health authorities need to reinvigorate the latent Incident Management System team _ put all response pillars to action. Intensify community engagement, risk communication and social mobilization, contact tracing and active case finding for COVID-19 cases. Enforce testing at the Port of Entries (POE), especially, RIA, not only for a "money-making venture" _ but for real-time public health surveillance and actions to protect the Liberian people and foreign residents _ and to keep the fragile economy afloat. Issue a national mask mandate in public places, homes, churches, mosques, etc. and create massive awareness for COVID-19 anti-vaxxers. My people, your part is to adhere to the public health measures, and protect yourself, your neighbors, and your community _ it is a patriotic duty for all Liberians to stop COVID-19. The life you save could be yours."

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