By: Augustine F. Taylor, Jr.
The Coronavirus vividly has become our greatest enemy in this period of our human existence. As the virus begins to rapidly spread around the world, countries are profoundly struggling to implement and are implementing measures geared toward at least curtailing the spread of this silent rage referred to as common enemy.
In the United States, California declared a State of Emergency after the state’s first death. The likes of Washington and Florida follow suit. The United States government also prevented the entry of anyone who visited China in the last 14 days and nationwide testing was conducted. The United States is currently the most affected worldwide with more than eight million cases recorded, four million recoveries and four hundred sixty four thousand deaths.
Schools and universities were closed for 10 days which extended further in Italy. The Italian government also banned public conferences and cultural events to curtail the spread of the virus which killed thousands of people at that time.
The French government advised its citizens to abandon the customary greetings involving kissing each other on the cheek. The German Health Minister Jens Spahn also declared the Coronavirus a worldwide pandemic something the World Health Organization (WHO) didn’t declare at that point.
In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a countrywide three weeks lockdown in March and extended further in April. Testing of more than 4,500 was conducted on a daily basis according to the Health Minister Zweli Mkhize of South Africa..
The Federal government of Nigeria lockdown Lagos and restricted movement to essential activities. Also curfews were imposed in Dakar, Senegal and Nairobi, Kenya. People were allowed to continue working but social activities and night travelled were prevented.
President George Weah of Liberia declared a State of Emergency but, did it yield fruitful results? Prior to declaration of the failed State of Emergency, the Liberian government through the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) ordered the screening of passengers at the Roberts International Airport (RIA), the first country to do so. People travelling from affected countries were quarantined between 7-14 days.
Unfortunately, the Liberian health authorities on March 16, 2020 informed President George
Weah that Liberia has recorded its first Coronavirus case. In respond to this communication, President Weah addressed the nation at 10:00 AM. The president informed the nation that after the dreadful Ebola crisis between 2014-2016 which killed over 4,000 people, Liberians have now been threatened with a major pandemic called Covid-19. President Weah named Mr. Nathaniel Blama the executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the one affected with the virus. Mr. Blama had earlier returned from Switzerland on March 13, 2020 with other government officials.
The president further urged Liberians not to panic as the situation was under professional control by health authorities who had adequately prepared themselves. Additional measures were however introduced which included: the regular washing and sanitizing of hands, avoiding handshake, the traditional way of greetings in Liberia. Nonessential travel of government officials were banned, nonessential employees of government ministries and agencies were ordered to stay home and would receive their salaries. All citizens and foreign residents were also urged to avoid large crowds and try to observe social distance of at least six feet while keeping away from people with fever, cough, sneezing and having difficulties in breathing. These were signs and symptoms of the Coronavirus as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Despite these measures put into place the number of Coronavirus cases in Liberia has rapidly increased. Article 86 A and B of the Liberian Constitution clearly states (A) The President may, in consultation with the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, proclaim and declare the existence of a state of emergency in the Republic or any part thereof. Acting pursuant thereto, the President may suspend or affect certain rights, freedoms and guarantees contained in this Constitution and exercise such other emergency powers as may be necessary and appropriate to take care of the emergency, subject, however, to the limitations contained in this Chapter.
(B) A state of emergency may be declared only where there is a threat or outbreak of war or where there is civil unrest affecting the existence, security or well-being of the Republic amounting to a clear and present danger. It was on these basic President Weah declared a State of Emergency on April 8, 2020. Liberia active cases before such declaration stood at more than 40 with three deaths and five recoveries around designated centers in the country.
Below are some measures meant to curtail the spread of the virus as declared under President Weah’s State of Emergency,
- That all counties in the Republic of Liberia quarantined from 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020, until further notice. Movements between counties were strictly prohibited.
- That all Liberians and residents within the borders of Montserrado, Margibi, and Grand Kru Counties stay home 14 days, beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020.
- That residents leave home only for essential journey such as health and food. Such restrictions were attributed to their local communities only.
- That banks, supermarkets, and other business establishments such as hotels, petrol stations, and health facilities work and return directly home at 3:00 PM. commercials activities were also affected by such time.
Furthermore, President Weah ordered the Minister of Internal Affairs to engage the leaders of various marketing associations in order to make a satisfactory arrangement about the operation of markets during this period. This was meant to ensure the observance of social distance and enhanced hygiene protocols. The Internal Ministry adhered to the president’s mandate and as per the arrangements, the selling of non-food items were banned and only those who sold food items were allowed to sell but on a rotational basic. Did such arrangements yield fruitful results? There were many seen selling non- food items in Red Light and other market places. In fact markets places and the streets were filled with many sellers and buyers. Pedestrians could barely move about freely.
In compliance with Article 88 which states The President shall, immediately upon the declaration of a state of emergency, but not later than seven days thereafter, lay before the Legislature at its regular session or at a specially convened session, the facts and circumstances leading to such declaration, President Weah on April 13, 2020 wrote the Speaker of the House of Representatives highlighting the reasons for the declaration and also promised Liberians stimulus package as a way of helping them during the period which the State of Emergency was declared. The Legislature approved the State of Emergency on April 19, 2020.
At the time the Legislature approved the State of Emergency, Liberia’s total cases stood at 76 with seven deaths. From that time of declaration till the day of its upliftment on June 21, Liberia has recorded the total of 625 cases, 34 deaths and 254 recoveries. This clearly tells you that additional 549 cases, 27 new deaths were recorded during the period of State of Emergency.
With the below stated we can unapologetically say President George Weah’s State of Emergency massively failed and there was no reason for such declaration. The fact that people were allowed to move between the morning hours until 3:00 PM might had caused rapid increment in the number of Coronavirus cases. State of Emergency or Curfews cannot stop the virus from spreading therefore national government should ensure that the security apparatus enforce the compulsory wearing of masks in all gathering and public places. This will minimize the spread of the virus as it is the only way one can prevent it from entering our noses and eyes.
Furthermore, the Coronavirus is real and it is in Liberia. Let’s continue to abide by all health protocols as we go through these critical times. Stay safe.
About the Author
A Sophomore student studying Public Administration at the University of Liberia. A young militant of the Vanguard Student Unification Party.
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