Liberia has recorded its first confirmed case of Coronavirus disease. The Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr. Nathaniel Blama, Sr. was confirmed positive upon his return from Switzerland on the night of Friday, March 13, 2020 on Air Brussels.
Consequently, health authorities in the West African nation have began tracing contacts that were aboard the flight and those who may have come in contact with the victim.
According to healthcare workers posted at the Roberts International Airport, Mr. Blama refused to be quarantined and others along with him bypassed the prevention protocols put in place to avoid the “pandemic” slipping through the cracks.
Hours after the confirmation, Liberia’s President George Manneh Weah, in a Nationwide address, told the citizenry that the country has regrettably recorded the first case of the airborne disease but called for calm.
President Weah announced immediate measures to be taken by national government including nonessential staff of government staying home with salaries paid. The Civil Service Agency (CSA) has been asked to identify those staff that have to stay home until otherwise instructed.
Here is the FULL TEXT OF PRESIDENT WEAH MESSAGE
MY FELLOW CITIZENS AND FOREIGN RESIDENTS:
I would like to speak directly to you today concerning the Coronavirus Pandemic, which is rapidly spreading around the world.
The spread of this virus represents the greatest threat to the health and well-being of the people of Liberia since the Ebola epidemic suffered by our country from 2014 to 2016.
Let me assure you that the Government is taking every precaution and action to protect our borders and ports of entry. However, in spite of these arrangements, I regret to inform you that Liberia has recorded a confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus.
The infected person is Mr. Nathaniel Blama, Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, who arrived in Liberia on Brussels Airlines on Friday night, the 13th of March. Along with several other officials of Government traveling on the same flight, Mr. Blama chose not to be quarantined, in keeping with the health protocols that were in place at the airport.
An intensive tracing exercise is underway to identify and test all persons with whom he came into contact. Meanwhile, all other persons who traveled on that flight and by-passed the mandatory screening protocols, are being made to report to the health authorities immediately and without any further delay, for testing.
Any other persons who attempt to by-pass screening at any port of entry will be arrested and taken into compulsory quarantine.
I want to assure the Liberian people that the situation is under professional management by the health authorities, who have adequately prepared themselves well in advance for this eventuality. There is no need to panic. I ask that all of you should remain calm, and report any suspicious medical behavior to the authorities for our own safety.
It is very important that we all follow the guidelines set out by the health authorities, and adapt our behavior accordingly.
MY FELLOW CITIZENS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
In view of the above, it is necessary to take certain immediate actions in response to this threat.
1. There must be a strong focus on hygiene from every individual and organization.
2. Everyone should wash their hands often, several times a day, with soap and running water, and use hand sanitizers, wherever available and affordable.