Grand Gedeh County – Despite the recent protocol put in place by the Government of Liberia, mandating all travelers to obtain a certificate to prove that said traveler is COVID-19 negative before departing the country, there are growing concerns in Grand Gedeh County that incoming and outgoing travelers using land borders with Ivory Coast are not adhering to the regulation.
According to a Ministry of Health’s press release dated December 1, 2020, the purpose of this guideline is to protect Liberia from the further spread of Covid-19.
“All non-exempt incoming and outgoing travelers will be tested for Covid-19. The testing fee is US$75,” the release stated. “Upon arrival, exempt travelers must present a negative PCR Covid-19 result from an accredited lab within 96 hours of testing”.
But it appears that some travelers arriving or departing the country through Liberia-Ivory Coast borders via Grand Gedeh County either lack knowledge of the decision taken by the Liberian Government or the centralization of the testing and issuance of the certificate makes it impracticable to obtain a certificate before traveling by land.
Grand Gedeh County has four recognized borders and over 10 unofficial borders points with the Ivory Coast.
Business Travelers’ Concerns
Businesswoman Mamie Qawion, who often travels to the Ivory Coast, claims she is unaware of the COVID-19 traveling protocol. She has, however, vowed to adhere to the regulation but complains that the fee for the test and certificate is “too high”.
“We will follow, because it is intended to safe myself before both countries’ citizens life, but we are appealing to them so that the fee charged should at least be reduced to US$50.00 to allow us travelers easily respond to the mandate,” she told reporters recently at the B’hai border crossing.
“We faced a lot of challenges in getting our goods from across — mainly the transportation fare, because of the road condition from Zwedru to these borders; we also pay custom, and even gate-drops both in Ivory Coast and Liberia for our goods, so please let the US$75.00 charged be reduced to US$50.00 to enable us respond so easily”.
Another traveler, Prince Chengnidu suggests that the government must create more awareness about the traveler’s COVID-19 test and certificate to convince many business travelers about its significance.
As a frequent traveler to Nigeria – from where he exports variety of goods to Liberia, Chenhnidu says he rarely gets information about the importance of obtaining the COVID-19 certificate before leaving the country.
“The only thing the people at the border can asked us for is our traveling documents and checking of temperature by health workers that are assigned to these borders and not Covid-19 testing certificate,” he explains.
“So, if the Government wants us get the certificate before travelling, which I am willing to get next time, they have to create more awareness on it and decentralize the testing and granting of the certificate and [it should] not only [be done] in Monrovia.”
Like the travelers using the borders in Grand Gedeh County with the Ivory Coast, there have been growing concerns from other travelers that the process is only being done in Monrovia. Some say it undermines the regulation and makes strict adherence impracticable for land travelers who are not based in Montserrado County.
Meanwhile, it seems enforcement of the protocol that all travelers must show a 24-hour validated COVID-19 negative test result certificate before leaving the country is dormant at land border points in Grand Gedeh County.
Regulation not Being Implemented
Miss. Ophelia Worjoloe, the head of health volunteers assigned at the B’hai border point, said the mandate has not been given them to request or record Covid-19 test certificate from travelers.
“It is only temperature checking we are carrying on here at this border for travelers,” she told reporters. “If we check your temperature and notice that it is high, we have a short stay [precautionary facility], where we can keep you and provide you first aid and if the person is okay, we can release him/her but if not, we can recommend treatment to the Toe Town clinic”.
Like Ms. Worjoloe, Mr. Morris Kamara, the Liberia Immigration Service commander of Grand Gedeh County, clarifies that the mandate to receive Covid-19 testing certificate from travelers has not started taking effect in the county.
“This may hopefully kickoff early January of 2021, by then we [would] have trained or informed all of our officers assigned at these borders to give them the clear insight,” Mr. Kamara said. “They [offciers] firstly need to understand the mandate before enforcement in collaboration with theses assigned health officers that are there with us.”
Preparing to Decentralize
And Dr. Augustine Fannieh, Grand Gedeh County Health Officer, added that the enforcement of the traveling certificate protocol for land travelers is being delayed because the Ministry of Health is still preparing to decentralize the regulation.
Said Dr. Fannieh: “We are negotiating for decentralization in the county, so that those who want to travel can have easy access to getting the Covid-19 testing certificate at the county level instead of coming to Monrovia, to be receiving it which may be very difficult for our people”.
Community Concerned about COVID-19 Risk
While the delay in the enforcement of the traveling protocol at land border continues, communities along the borders are edgy about a possible outbreak due to the daily influx of travelers. Toe Town is one of the many communities close to the Liberian border with Ivory Coast.
A resident of the town, Mr. June Gaye says the enforcement of traveler testing is crucial, adding that more than 15 people, whose COVID-19 status are unknown, cross in the town every day.
“People coming in and going without knowing their health status properly may cause further spread of the pandemic,” asserts Mr. Gaye. “So, let the Ministry of Health see reason to stick behind the travelers to present his/her Covid-19 testing certificate before crossing or else let the person go back and must not be allow to cross”.
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