Following public criticism of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf alleged inaction to lead the country in battling the deadly Ebola virus outbreak, the Liberian leader has broken silence from abroad, calling for calm, though seven lives has already been claimed by the disease, according to health authorities.
The Ebola virus entered the country late March when some citizens from the sisterly Republic of Guinea reportedly crossed into Liberia to seek medication from the virus which has killed at least 100 people in that country.
Health and Social Welfare Minister Dr. Walter Gwenigale last Thursday confirmed the deaths of two additional persons from the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, bringing to seven the number of suspected deaths from the virus.
The latest two, Dr. Gwenigale said, included the sister of the woman who died earlier of the virus in Foya, Lofa and a Bassa hunter.
The fear of the virus has taken the country, especially the capital Monrovia by storm, with many people taking serious caution such as avoiding handshakes, kissing, and body contacts which are said to be among the means via which the virus spread.
Politicians including lawmakers have accused the President of showing don’t-care attitude about the pandemic, while the Senate last week passed a resolution for the Liberian government to shut its border with Guinea, but the Lower House failed to concur.
However, in her statement broadcast Saturday (April 5) from Italy, President Sirleaf said there was no need for panic and that she was in full control of the situation.
“My trip to Europe was planned well before the Ebola situation evolved. Before I left, I had proper consultations with the Minister of Health and his team. The situation was assessed. We felt that it was well under control; that the health team would continue to brief the nation and be very straight forward on what the situation was,” the President said.
“Since I left the country,” she furthered, “I have been briefed everyday by the Minister of Health and his team. I have received information through the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Dr. Edward McClain and through the United States Embassy whom we have contacted to send representatives from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. I received a message from Ambassador [Deborah] Malac that the team should be in Monrovia shortly.”
The Liberia leader indicated that while the Ebola outbreak was of concern, it was not at a level the warrant citizens panicking. “We believe that while it is a concern, there is no need for panic. The situation has been managed very well by the Ministry of Health working with some of our international partners and we do not believe that one needs to do anything more than take precaution, follow the instructions and advice of the Ministry of Health team.”
“This is not a thing for politicians. This is why, although the Senate had taken some actions relating to the border, we’re glad that the House of Representatives decided that that action was not necessary.
“As far as we’re concerned the situation is being contained and well controlled. We ask the media, we ask politicians and we ask everybody not to create panic in the country. By talking things when you don’t have the details, you simply make people afraid and that’s not good.
We call on everybody to remain calm, listen to the daily briefings of the Ministry of Health to follow whatever their advice is. Be assured that I’m on top of it; I’m getting briefings; I’m in control of it; and I feel that the situation is being well managed. Thank you,” the President said.
Addressing the Press, Health Minister Gwenigale said the lady who died last Wednesday night got infected while taking care of her sister who contracted the virus in Lofa.
He said after contracting the virus, she traveled from Lofa to Chicken-soup Factory in Gardnersville in a taxi, and was later taken to Firestone by the taxi driver where she later died.
Minister Gwenigale added that her child who is currently sick has been quarantined.
Dr. Gwenigale told journalists at the press conference that the 25-year-old Bassa hunter died at the Tappita Hospital in Nimba Count, few minutes after he was taken there for treatment.
He said though no standard laboratory test has proved that he died from Ebola, the Ministry concluded that he died of the deadly virus, because he manifested the different signs and symptoms that go along with the virus.
Minister Gwenigale said his ministry is tracing every rumor of the outbreak of Ebola, including the Matadi Estate Community, but he cautioned those disseminating such information to be sincere, as the Ebola issue is of national concern, having already claimed the lives of some Liberians.
He maintained that Ebola is real and is present in Liberia and that no Liberian should take it for a joke.
Meanwhile, the Embassy of People’s Republic of China near Monrovia has donated US$20,000 on behalf of the China Red Cross Society to the Liberia National Red Society to help strengthen the response to the spread of the Ebola virus in the country.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the donation was made on Friday, APRIL 4, at the Chinese Embassy in Congo Town, outside Monrovia.
The deadly Ebola virus was discovered in the West African region from neighboring Guinea and spread over to Liberia and Sierra Leone, killing several victims in the region. Writes D Kaihenneh Sengbeh, firstname.lastname@example.org, +231886586531