Harper, Maryland County – The festive season is now over but the coronavirus pandemic is not yet over. And with all the preventive measures ignored during the senatorial election period and the celebration of the holidays, some residents of Maryland County are worried that the flouting of the health regulations may cause a resurgence of an outbreak.
Report By: Bryan Dioh, LMD Responsible Health Reporting Fellow
Some residents say the unregulated movements and crowding of hundreds of persons during the election, Christmas and New Year Day celebrations in complete disregard for Covid-19 health protocols may trigger a new wave of infections in the country.
Out of the 1,779 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in Liberia, Maryland County has recorded 33 cases and two deaths. Thirty persons have recovered in the county, but public health experts have warned that the pandemic is not over in the country, prompting concerns of a new infections if preventive measures are flagrantly ignored.
Aaron Cooper is a resident of the densely populated commercial city of Pleebo in Maryland. He is afraid that there might be new confirmed cases of COVID-19 following the festive season due to the unrestricted gathering of people.
“The reason why I am saying this [that there might be new cases] is because we have forgotten that we still have few cases of the virus here,” said Cooper. “Even though we got information that we don’t have cases in the treatment unit again, but I think it is important we still keep the health protocols.”
Cooper asserts that if more tests are done, there might be more confirmed cases of COVID-19 discovered, adding that health authorities must “take control of the situation” by increasing awareness and enforcing adherence to the health protocols if the county wants to avert a resurgence.
“If we should be free in this country, we should always observe the health mandates, because if that’s not done, we will continue to suffer and all our things will go backward,” says Johnson Doe, a resident of Hoffman Station community in Harper city, adding that increasing public awareness about the preventative measures will limit the risk.
Many people who travelled to the county during the holidays did not follow any protocol, some residents have said. This is drawing concerns that prevention mechanism of the county has broken down – a situation that is troubling for the pandemic response efforts.
Ms. Catherine Shema traveled from River Gee County to spend the holidays in Harper City with her friends and families. She later realized that her Journey to the county was “risky for me because of the current coronavirus”.
“I am afraid to get the virus,” Catherine said. “Because I had to travel from River Gee County to celebrate the festival season and I had lots of interactions along the way. Besides, too many people even traveled from other parts of Liberia to come here, and it might be possible that some people have the virus.”
“We don’t know what’s really the problem our health people are not enforcing the health measures,” she asks, while calling on the authority to “demand us to continue wearing our nose mask and washing hands, which is very important to preventing this virus.”
Unlike concerns about the violation of long existing health protocols including physical distancing and wearing of mask, a recent regulation introduced by the Ministry of Health for travelers is also not being enforced in the county.
The Ministry announced on December 1, 2020 that the purpose of the regulation 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 this regulation is yet to be introduced in Maryland County, which has several porous borders with the Republic of Ivory Coast – where business travelers used to move between both countries unimpeded.
Dr. Methodust George is Maryland County Health Officer. During a recent appearance on a community radio station, he said the testing of people who might want to travel outside the county will begin shortly.
“We haven’t even started the issuing of the certificate because of other reasons but we hope to start soon as our people need to be safe,” Dr. George said. “Even increasing community awareness is another thing we have to look at because everyone seems to be forgetting about this health measures implementation and with all of us collective efforts, we should stand strong to help defeat this.”
The CHO is also concerned about the ramifications of the increasing violation of the coronavirus health measures during the election and holiday periods.
“Can you imagine this festival season all of us didn’t observe the health protocols and that is so dangerous to our health,” he warned. “If you do each and every one test here, you surely going to determine and get to know clearly that many will have the virus.”