Four Counties Prepare for Lockdown as Pres. Weah Declares State of Emergency

MONROVIA, Montserrado – President George Weah has declared a national state of emergency on Wednesday, along with additional measures to contain the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic in the country. These measures include a mandatory 14-day stay home order for residents of Montserrado, Margibi, Nimba, and Grand Kru.

The president’s announcement came as health authorities were preparing to announce that confirmed cases had more than doubled, with an additional 17 cases to bring the total to 31 cases and four deaths, with three recoveries, so far.

“The sad reality of millions of victims and thousands of deaths around the world should give all of us cause to pause and think about what we must do collectively to protect ourselves from this dreadful pestilence,” Weah said.

“The horrific scenarios that are beginning to emerge should serve as sufficient warning for every one of us to spring into action.”

He said while the country’s health teams are working to test scores of contacts, the country must recognize that the COVID-19 virus has now moved from the phase of protection to containment.

“The global spread of this virus represents the greatest threat to the health and well-being of the people of Liberia since the Ebola epidemic suffered by our country from 2014 to 2016. It has already arrived in Liberia and confirmed cases are now on the rise,” he said.

As part of the measures announced, movements between counties will be prohibited, although Margibi and Montserrado will be considered one county.

During this period, the president said movements will be restricted to only essential journeys, such as for health and food, and even such movement must be within a resident’s local community, limited to a single person per household, and for a maximum of one hour.

The measures come with some exceptions, including for essential staff in government offices, banks, supermarkets, and other business establishments such as hotels, petrol stations, and health facilities to travel directly to work and return directly home, not later than 3:00 p.m.

“Meanwhile, non-exempt government employees and people in the private sector are encouraged to work from home,” the president added.

He instructed the Ministry of Internal Affairs to engage leaders of marketing associations outside Monrovia to make satisfactory arrangements about the operation of markets during this period to ensure the observance of social distancing practices and enhanced hygiene protocols.

The president noted that the emergency measures would be enforced by the Armed Forces of Liberia, and additional measures could be imposed in the near future. He asked the nation to abide by the new rules.

“We have to ask ourselves why we should abide by these measures. The answer is to simple: to save lives,” Pres. Weah added.

The state of emergency, which begins at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, will last for three weeks, and Weah said it could be renewed until the threat of COVID-19 no longer exists.

A state of emergency allows the president to suspend or amend certain rights and freedoms. However, two-thirds of the legislature must approve of the move within 72 hours or the measure will be automatically revoked.

Meanwhile, the National Legislature is convening a joint session today to justify and endorse the state of emergency by joint resolution.

Briefly after the president’s address to the nation, Health Minister Wilhemina Jallah announced the status of the country’s COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Jallah’s update on ELBC, the country confirmed an additional 17 new cases, including one new death. Prior to her announcement, Liberia only had 14 cases and 3 deaths. No further details were provided on the cases, except the name of the communities. Jallah said the latest death occurred in Nimba.

Featured photo courtesy of Executive Mansion

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

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