By Timothy Seaklon & C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
The Government of the People’s Republic of China has donated several health materials valued at US$1.7m to boost up government’s efforts to fight the deadly Ebola virus that has claimed the lives of many Liberians.
Presenting the items on behalf of the Chinese Government yesterday, the Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, Yur Zhany, said the donation is the Chinese people’s way of identifying with Liberia as the country strives to fight the Ebola virus.
According to Ambassador Zhany, the items include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), disinfectants medical gloves, medical thermometer as well as drugs intended to suppress the Ebola virus in human.
Ambassador Zhany said the Chinese did not only identify with Liberia but other countries that are fighting the virus such as Guinea and Sierra Leone. He said the total package to the three countries is valued at US$5m.
The Chinese envoy explained how the Chinese cargo plane carrying the items which comprised of disinfectants, protective gears as well as drugs to suppress the virus had earlier landed in Guinea and Sierra Leone before arriving at the Roberts International Airport (RIA).
The Coordinator of the Ebola Task force, James Dorbor Jallah, promised that the items will be stored at the Freeport of Monrovia and be ready for prompt distribution to hospitals and clinics based on the advice of the Ministry of Health.
Receiving the items on behalf of the Liberian Government, the acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sylvester Grisby, expressed the government’s gratitude and said the government and people of the Republic of China have always been friends of the Government of Liberia.
Meanwhile, the National Task Force to fight Ebola headed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has commenced series of meetings with the plenary of the Liberian Senate to provide up-to-date briefings about the status of Ebola in the country.
At the meeting yesterday, Health Minister Walter Gwenigale disclosed that there is a possibility that Liberia will receive the experiment drug that was used to stabilize the two American doctors now in Atlanta, United States who contracted the virus while serving humanity in Liberia.
He told members of the Liberian Senate at the Capitol Building among other things that he has been able to contact the company that produced the drug and it has given some advice in that direction; contacting the American Forestry Development Authority who consented to the drug coming to Liberia.
On the issue of closure of medical facilities, he said medical facilities were closed down by default and that measures are now in place to ensure that health workers return to work while the facilities will be chlorinated and prepared to receive patients again.
Minister Gwenigale also announced the appointment of Tolbert Nyensua as Director for Ebola who according to him will deal with all such issues and provide up-to-date responses when and if necessary noting that so far, 20 persons from Montserrado and 30 persons from Lofa Counties have died after contracting the virus.
He said the Chief Medical Officer, Bernice Dahn, will move on to addressing the normal health care delivery adding that since the Ebola outbreak the Ministry of Health had not paid much attention to its regular health matters including other sicknesses or diseases.
Health Minister Gwenigale said even though there is no cure for the disease but if a person arrives at a center at the early stage, it is best for them as well as the medical practitioners. “Those whose counties the virus has yet not reached please do not come to Montserrado or any other county. If you do not have business, do not come here if you do not want your community invested. If that means turning people away from your towns, do so,” he said.
The Health Minister said treatment centers are being established around the country and that has been one of the health team’s major problems in taking patients suspected of Ebola from their homes.
Dr. Gwenigale said the burying of dead bodies have been turned over to the Ministry of Internal Affairs because nobody wants people to be buried in their communities and it is the Internal Affairs that deals with city mayors and superintendents therefore that aspect is now settled with the aid of the Red Cross.
Assuming his new duty, Director Nyensua told members of the Liberian Senate that chemical substance put in water wells as well as Ebola vaccine and bitter cola are rumors that need to be dispelled and noted that the hotline for Ebola is now 4455 which can be used by LoneStar, Cellcom and Novafone subscribers linking to 30 phones and it is a 24-hour service that takes care of all situations.
Defense Minister, Brownie Samukai said all those wishing to commute from Gbarpolu, Bomi and Cape Mount Counties must stay at the Klay Checkpoint for 21 days and submit to a check-up by the health workers there.
He warned, “The task force will not tolerate any acts of setting up road blocks in the name of check points because no one is authorized to do so. You are in a State of Emergency; do not test out limits. People are dying; bodies need to be removed and traffic needs to move; please do not take the laws into your hands.”
He said, “Districts in Lofa County are in the process of being quarantined as the security has no intention of allowing the queues of vehicles at the St. Paul Bridge linking Bong and Lofa to pass and that no one is also authorized to allow anyone pass the check point until the 21-day observation elapses. I hope no one calls to allow special access to anyone because we will refuse; this is no disrespect to anyone. The better we cooperate the easier it is for all of us,” he maintained.
The joint task force members present at yesterday’s briefing along with the members of the Liberian Senate have concurred to cut the South Eastern region off from the rest of the country since in fact the virus has not surfaced in that part of the country.
River Gee County Senator, Fredrick Cherue recommended that trucks be made available to take food items and other needed supplies to the counties in that region so that residents there will not be enticed to leave and come to Monrovia.
In a related development, the National Democratic Coalition is also calling on the government to speed up the incentive package to medical practitioners in the country.
In a seven-page press statement which they outlined reasons why the State of Emergency declared will harm the economy made available to this institution yesterday, the coalition of Liberia’s social democrats concluded by also requesting the provision of adequate protective support for health workers across the country.