Margibi County – Residents of Goshen Community in Margibi County have expressed fear that Liberia may experience an increase in the number of coronavirus cases after the 2020 senatorial election.
Report By: Rita Jlogbe, Inspires Health Reporting Fellow
According to the residents, health protocols intended to curb the spread of the virus are being relaxed by everyone including government officials, politicians, and their supporters.
Expressing fear about a possible resurgence of the pandemic in the country, four residents — Michael Freeman, Aaron Massaquio, Millena N. Mallen and Elton Gaye warned that if politicians do not allow their supporters to follow the health protocols, the country will experience a spike in new cases after December 8.
Speaking to LocalVoicesLiberia recently, the residents, some of whom are business people, noted that politicians are gathering people in large number without adherence to the health protocols, noting that if senatorial candidates and their supporters do not abide by the preventive measures during the campaign period, there will be a surge in new confirmed cases.
Public health experts have also expressed concerns about the violation of the COVID-19 health protocol since the resumption of campaign activities including rallies. Many people attending these rallies are often seen without masks or face shield.
Residents Concerned About Flouting of Protocol
Mr. Freeman, who is the Co-Chair of the community, is concerned about what measures are being put in place by the government to prevent the spread of the virus during these elections period.
“COVID-19 is a global pandemic and we the citizens should take it very seriously and try to take every precautionary measure,” Freeman said. “As for me, it is my major concern because I don’t know what sought of mechanism Government will put in place regarding this election and COVID-19.”
Freeman is also worried that community members are no longer observing the preventive measures, adding that people leave their various homes without wearing nose masks.
“Government has not lifted all of the bans and you see people are clustered together without observing the social distancing; not to talk about wearing nose masks,” he said. “I saw the crowd at SKD when the CDC was launching, it was like no more COVID-19 in the country.”
Elton Gaye, another resident of the community who runs a mini money exchange bureau, claims that “the Government is not paying attention to the health protocols anymore”. Gaye noted that even law enforcement officers are ignoring the regulations.
“Even the Police are allowing four [passengers] at the back of the taxi; before, it used to be three [passengers at the back],” he said while suggesting that the Ministry of Health reactivates the regulations once again.”
“Last week when I was listening to the radio, the Health Minister announced that we were around 94 cases, and I was so surprised when I learned yesterday that we are around hundred plus [confirmed cases],” explains Millena, a resident of the Goshen Community who is also a nurse.
“I can see and I am observing that we are not following any of the protocols again; we are not keeping the social distances, we are not wearing the nose masks and we are not even washing our hands.”
Confirmed Cases Increase Slowly
Data released by the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) on December 6 put the country’s total number of confirmed cases at 1,676 with 235 being active confirmed cases.
So far, Margibi County has recorded 84 confirmed cases – out of this, six deaths were reported, and 73 persons recovered. Although the county has only recorded one confirmed case since December, the fear of the pandemic is still glaring among some residents. The violation of the physical distancing protocol is also drawing ire.
And Massaquoi said public transport vehicles are now carrying more than the regulated number of passengers – a violation of the health protocol.
“Besides taxi drivers taking four to the back, they don’t even encourage their passengers to wear the nose masks anymore,” he said. “Nowadays when you wear nose mask, you look funny in the eyes of people.”
In April this year, the Government ordered that al transport vehicles reduce the number of passengers as a means of practicing physical distancing. But that mandate is not being adhered to by drivers and there have been little or no enforcement by security officers.
Concerns Heighten Ahead of School Opening
Meanwhile, as schools get set to reopen, there are also concerns that pupils may be put at risk . These Goshen residents are cautioning schools administrators to put in place more rigorous protocols for students.
Massaquoi is calling for the reduction of students in each class while Mallan wants school administrators make it mandatory for every student to take to school his/her own launch.
Mallan asserts that this will ensure adherence to physical distancing amongst pupils. “Most often when the children go to school, some children will be eating and the other children that don’t have food will go and join them to eat and they will share a plastic of water and it’s very risky,” she said.
“Schools should observe the rules; they [should] come down hard on people, if even the child goes and don’t have mask they should not allow them even on devotion line. Send the child home, let them go back home and come along with their mask.”
And Massaquoi called on the Ministry of Education to be more rigorous with the adherence of health measures at schools.
“They should go around and continue monitoring the classrooms, how many students are in class, how are they adhering to those rules and other things, The Ministry of Education should come down hard.”