Gbarnga, Bong County — Health authorities in Bong County have announced that the county is at the verge of being declared COVID-19-free by the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute, but cautioned that residents must continue to follow the preventive measures if they want the county to remain safe.
Report By: Moses Bailey, LMD Responsible Health Reporting Fellow
As of August 28, the county has recorded 34 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five deaths attributed to the new coronavirus. The first case confirmed in the county – a 52-year-old man – later died on June 3 in the Sugar Hills Community in Gbarnga.
The case load then rapidly grew to 34 in a space of two months, leading to the partial closure of major health facilities in the county including Phebe and C.B. Dunbar Hospitals.
The last set of COVID-19 patients were treated and successfully discharged from the Treatment Unit at the Phebe Hospital on July 25. Since then, the county is yet to record another confirmed case of the virus, according to the County Health Officer, Dr. Adolphus Yieah.
“We are counting down. Since July 25, we have not had a new case of COVID-19,” said Dr. Yieah during an interview with LocalVoicesLiberia. “We will be declared free of COVID-19, 48 days after July 25.”
Holding all factors constant, Bong will receive a certificate from the Ministry of Health as a symbol that the county is free from the virus on September 12 or there abouts, he said.
However, most citizens and residents of the county – as well people visiting or transiting through – have been urged to continue following all the preventive measures, if the quest for declaring the county COVID-19-free should remain plausible, Dr. Yieah said.
“Continue to use nose masks or face shields, wash your hands, observe social distancing, and contact health workers whenever you feel symptoms of COVID-19,” he said.
However, there are concerns that many people in the county are not following the preventive measures at all. Local bars have all reopened and markets are seen flooded with people who do not observe social distancing. Most of them do not also wear nose masks or face shields.
Aaron Juaquellie, a civil society actor in the county, says the refusal of people to keep following the COVID-19 preventive measures is worrisome.
“I don’t understand what is going on. Why it is that people are refusing to wear nose masks or face shields? This is really not good for the fight against COVID-19,” Juaquellie said.
Even though it has been 31 days since the county recorded its last case, the county’s COVID-19 Treatment Unit is still on high alert. Trained medical practitioners, personal protective equipment, beddings, drugs to treat the different symptoms caused by the virus, among others, are available to cater for patients.
“The Treatment Unit is opened and functional. It will remain open even if the county is declared COVID-19-free,” Dr. Yieah said.
To further strengthen surveillance and build a stronger resilience in the county against COVID-19, the health team will shortly begin voluntary testing for coronavirus, according to the county’s surveillance officer, Emmanuel Dweh.
“We are encouraging voluntary testing. Let our people come to Phebe Hospital and be tested. We will also be moving from one community to another in the coming days,” Dweh said.
According to the World Health Organization, strong and effective testing, tracking, and tracing are the most promising approach to curb the spread of the virus.
As of August 25, Liberia had recorded 1,298 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 384 active cases, 82 deaths and 832 recoveries, according to NPHIL.