By: Timothy T. Seaklon
The Government of Liberia (GOL) has threatened to prosecute Mr. Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian who was recently diagnosed of the deadly Ebola virus four days after arriving in the United States. The GOL said its action to prosecute Mr. Duncan after he recovery from the virus stands from the fact that he made false declaration while filling in the health form at the Robert International Airport (RIA) prior to his departure.
Addressing the daily Ebola Press briefing yesterday at the Ministry of Information, RIA Board Chairman, Mr. BinyahKesselly said Mr. Duncan knew that he had Ebola even though his temperature after undergoing the test at the airport registered 36.5.
Mr. Kesselly told journalists that Mr. Duncan who lived in the 72nd Community in Paynesville prior to traveling to the United States had an interaction with a pregnant lady in his community who died from Ebola after being refused by several hospitals and clinics.
The RIA Board Chair said Mr. Duncan took the woman with his bare hands and put her into a taxi before taking her around to hospitals and clinics that refused her.
Mr. Kesselly said he had conversation with the Minister of Justice and had a lengthy discussion with her relative to whether Mr. Duncan can be prosecuted for giving the airport false declaration after knowing that he had had an encounter with a sick person or someone who had died of the Ebola virus.
“It is very unfortunate that Mr. Duncan could give false declaration at the airport knowing that he had an interaction with a person who died of Ebola. This is against the public health Law of Liberia,” Mr. Kesselly said.
The RIA Board Chairman who is also the Commissioner of the Liberia Maritime Authority said that the screening of passengers going through the airport is conducted in three phases starting from the gate, to entering into the airport terminal and later before boarding the aircraft.
He said Mr. Duncan went through all of those screening but did not show any sign of temperature elevation but upon arrival in the United States on September 20, 2014 he came down with Ebola four days later, knowing that he interacted with some who died of Ebola.
Mr. Kesselly said from July 26 to October 1 2014, the RIA had tested or screened 9,624 who had travelled out of the country.
The RIA Board Chairman said the board made a commitment that within every 48 hours, the airport updates its screening measures and noted that when one has a temperature elevation of 37.5 he or she is quizzed.
“In instituting our stringent measures, Chairman Kesselly said the airport is working along with agents of the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who are always on a rotational basis and we continue to hold training, workshop and other capacity building programs for our staff at the airport,” Mr. Kesselly said.
He said the RIA Management will be working with the National Ebola Task Force especially the Ebola Case Management Team headed by Tolbert Nyenswah to make the list of those identified in contact tracing, suspected Ebola infected persons and those infected with the virus to the Airport.
He said this will help the airport in ensuring that no infected person will give the RIA false declaration when they are traveling out of the country.
Kesselly also called on the public to give information about people who are about to travel as this will go along in stopping the spread of the disease.
Mr. Kesselly said if this kind of situation continues with people giving false declaration, people could be quarantined for twenty-one days before travelling, saying, “This will not augur well if one had to attend a conference or seminar abroad.”