U.S. CDC Issues “High Alert” for COVID-19 In Liberia

Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, Liberia’s Minister of Health

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a “Level 3” alert for Liberia and warning travelers of a high level of COVID-19 in the country, as of January 31, 2022.

“Reconsider travel to Liberia due to COVID-19,” U.S. citizens have been advised.

There are 4 alert levels COVID-19 which the U.S. health agency uses: Level 3 is “High” and Level 4 is “Very High”.

The CDC also issued guidance for travelers to the West African country saying, “Make sure you are vaccinated and up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines before traveling to Liberia. If you are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, avoid travel to Liberia. Even if you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines, you may still be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. Anyone 2 years or older should properly wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public spaces. Follow all requirements and recommendations in Liberia.”

According to the WHO, cumulative cases in Liberia since the pandemic outbreak is put at 7,254 with 290 deaths. There has been 11 new confirmed cases and 1 death in the last 7 days in Liberia.

23 out of every 100 vaccine doses have been administered while only 20 out of every 100 persons have been fully vaccinated in Liberia in a country of 5 million.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday disclosed that the region of Africa has over 8 million cases with over 164,00 deaths since declaration of COVID-19 as a pandemic.

The CDC and U.S. State Department regularly issues health and security advisories for it citizens who travel internationally.

While the Liberian Ministry of Health has announced a series of health measures to control the spread of the respiratory illness which can be fatal, mask wearing and required health and safety protocols are not enforced or practices by a vast majority in the country.

African Star’s correspondent in Monrovia reports that a COVID-19 “Travel Protocol” issued by the Ministry of Health for entry and exit from Liberia has devolved to a “corrupt money- making” scheme where vaccine cards are issued without proper health testing. No report has been issued by the Government of Liberia on the amount of U.S. Dollars collected  since the Protocol was issued to try to control the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

Some international travelers to Liberia have complained of unnecessary bureaucracy and ineffective management of the “Travel Protocol” program which collects USD $75 on entry and exit from Liberia regardless of vaccination status.

US Department of State

Meantime, the U.S. State Department is also warning American citizens traveling to Liberia saying, “Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common, particularly in urban areas and on public beaches. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious crimes…”

Liberia’s health system is woefully inadequate to handle major pandemics and has suffered for decades from lack of prioritized budgetary allocation, and chronic mismanagement.

It can be recalled that African Star reported on July 7, 2021, how the lead agency responsible to prevent and control public health threats in Liberia has admitted that it is aware of numerous complaints of “fraud and extortion in our COVID-19  testing and results processes by persons trusted to carry out delicate activities”.

In a social media post in July 2021,  the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) blamed the complaints, which it said, “…if true, emanate from sample collectors who created new codes and submitted different test samples for individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19.”

Admission of the broken COVID-19 testing system was rather belated after hundreds of travelers in and out of the country openly faulted the Government for using the system for “money making purpose” with no accountability.

Travelers have been complaining of canceled flights, delays in obtaining results and results of positive testing after initially testing negative. Others have alleged that some international travelers from hard hit COVID-19 countries are allowed into the country without adequate screening.

African Star has observed lack of basic health protocols, lack of social distancing or masks and crowded terminals at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) as travelers await testing results before boarding flights.

Health experts says lax safety protocols and inadequate public awareness against disinformation continue to contribute to a surge in COVID-19 infections and deaths. Liberia is reportedly facing a vaccine shortage.

NPHIL said at the time that it was reviewing its system and indicated, “…there will be changes to our system aimed at clamping down on fraud. Any staff caught in this process will be immediately dismissed and turned over to the appropriate authority to face prosecution. Individuals caught paying for changed test results are also going to be prosecuted,” the Liberian health agency warned.

A Deputy Presidential spokesman Smith Toby, who appeared on a social media podcast with hosts of Focus of Liberia, following the reports blamed rising complaints of travelers at the RIA on their “frustration” with delays in obtaining results of their testing. Toby added, “…we cannot be shifting and getting out of anger and acting as if this is unique to our country, which of course that is not the case… that is not the case. No one celebrate people’s test being delayed. The Government is not doing it to celebrate you, deny you from traveling. When there is a situation, we all need to understand that there is a situation. We solve it, put hands together and solve it stop the complaining.”

The Ministry of Health in Monrovia issued  COVID-19 Testing  for travelers saying, “All non-exempt” incoming and outgoing travelers will be tested for COVID-19 in Liberia.  The testing fee is US$50 for travel within the ECOWAS Region and US$ 75 for travel outside of ECOWAS Region. This fee supposed to be used to underwrite the costs associated with the COVID-19 outbreak response, e.g. testing, case investigation, contact tracing, and data management.”  Arriving diplomats and their families are exempted from testing.

Since launching the paid COVID-19 testing scheme at its main airport, Liberia has collected millions in revenue.

Liberia’s health system was devastated and laid bare by an Ebola pandemic between 2014 – 2016 and budgetary allotment and support remain  inadequate. Health care facilities are poorly administered, short on medical supplies and personnel underpaid.

A program announced by the Liberian Government  to tax airport travelers $75 for COVID-testing on entering or leaving the country has been plagued with inaccurate results, delays for some travelers and cancellations of flights in some cases. Some travelers have confided to African Star that although they provided a negative COVID-19 Certificate to Liberian authorities at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) on arrival, they were still required to pay the fee.

With the discovery of the Delta COVID -19 variant in the country and spike in cases, health authorities are now faced with the urgency of preventing a full-blown medical crisis in the country which has ditched mask wearing and social distancing guidelines which have been recommended by health experts to slow the spread of the disease.  Poorly trained healthcare workers, limited Government support to the healthcare sectors and corruption as well as delays in the payments of salaries are among the challenges facing the West African country’s coronavirus response.

Source: African Star

Visited 291 times, 1 visit(s) today

Comments are closed.