PHOTOS: Monrovia Attempts a Stay Home Order, But Ends Up With a Curfew

MONROVIA, Montserrado – On April 8, President George Weah announced a state of emergency restricting travel across counties. For four counties that had already recorded Coronavirus cases, the president ordered a stay home measure requiring all residents to stay indoors and only come out for essential trips relating to food or medical supplies. The following pictures show residents of the Monrovia metropolitan area navigating the stay home order.

At a checkpoint at Duport Road Junction in Paynesville, vehicles are examined before they pass by.

An immigration officer tries to identify commercial vehicles carrying essential health workers. Vehicles were allowed to pass through the checkpoint if they contained health workers with valid IDs from their places of work. Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah had appealed to security personnel to allow health workers to go through checkpoints without hindrance after many health workers complained about harassment while to and from work.

A woman speaks to an armed police officer stationed at the UBA bank on Broad Street. Banks are one of the few businesses exempt from restrictions against opening during the state of emergency. Given that Liberian banks were already crowded before the emergency period, lines at banks and Western Union and MoneyGram points of sales have increased. Some banks now hand out tickets to customers in line on a first-come-first-served basis. On April 16, both the LDBI bank on 9th Street in Sinkor and the UBA bank on 5th Street in Sinkor had already given out all the allocated tickets by 8:30 a.m. for patrons wanting to conduct money transfer transactions.

These market women were heading to Red Light in Paynesville to purchase goods. Security personnel were only allowing vehicles to travel between Broad Street and Vamoma. All commercial vehicles were required to turn back once they reached Vamoma. The same was being done for vehicles traveling between ELWA Junction and Vamoma. After disembarking from their commercial taxi at Vamoma, the women now needed to find another vehicle to take them along the next stretch of their journey.

One of the enforcers of the motorcyclist union (dressed in black) sits atop a bike seized from a motorcyclist who had been violating some rules. The motorcyclist union has been regulating its members during the period of the stay home order. Although commercial motorcyclists were not among the entities exempt from operating, before 3:00 p.m. every day, they can be seen riding freely throughout the city, often with no protective equipment.

Social distancing rules have largely been ignored in Monrovia. In fact, the stay home order is being treated more like a curfew. During the first part of the day, residents go about their day without using face masks or other personal protective equipment. They ride next to each other in enclosed vehicles without any protection.

It is not only members of the general public who appear to not care about social distancing. Joint security team personnel do not seem to be protecting themselves against the Coronavirus, as they often move around without any facemask and are transported at the back of pickup trucks, crowded near each other.

After 3:00 p.m., the city becomes a ghost town. Here, Broad Street is completely deserted. After 2:45 p.m., security personnel are deployed across neighborhoods with switches, chasing people from the streets until they become quiet and empty.

By 3:00 p.m., the streets of Sinkor are also completely deserted, as all supermarkets and restaurants have largely shut down.

Zeze Ballah

Zeze made his journalism debut as a high school reporter at the LAMCO Area School System. In 2016 and 2017, the Press Union of Liberia awarded Zeze with the Photojournalist of the Year award. Zeze was also the union's 2017 Health Reporter of the Year. He is a Health Journalism Fellow with Internews.

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