Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has announced a National Action Plan in the country’s fight against the Ebola epidemic.
This comes as two U.S. Peace Corps volunteers have been isolated in Liberia after suspected exposure to the virus.
In a nationwide speech Wednesday, Sirleaf said she will not attend next week’s U.S.-Africa Summit. Instead, the Liberian delegation will be led by Vice President Joseph Boakai.
She also ordered the closure of schools across the country and placed non-essential government workers on a mandatory 30-day leave.
Sirleaf also announced the closure of all markets along Liberia’s borders with Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Goal: To contain epidemic
Information Minister Lewis Brown said Liberia’s goal is to contain the epidemic.
“Without exception, we have determined our strategy in fighting this deadly virus which is becoming widespread to be one of containment," Brown said. "Our goal is to care for the afflicted, protect health care workers, and ensure that we achieve a no new case situation in our country."
Brown said Sirleaf also announced that several communities were being considered for quarantine based on the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
“We are looking at areas where the incident is high; the risk of spreading is also high. And so, we want to quarantine those areas and provide the needed food and medical [aid] in those communities to reduce the risk of movement of people,” Brown said.
In her announcement, Sirleaf ordered “video clubs and entertainment centers” to improve sanitation, including facilities for the washing of hands.
She declared Friday a non-working day to be used for the “disinfection and chlorination” of all public facilities.
“When the president talked about market places, she’s talking about border areas, including Foya, Bo Waterside, and others that hold traditional market days where people come from either side to congregate in one place to sell their wares. These have been known to also further [the] risk of spread,” Brown said.
Government response criticized
Some local media reports have criticized the government for being unprepared in dealing with the Ebola outbreak, particularly the rising death rate.
Brown said no government could have been prepared to deal with what he called the unprecedented nature of the outbreak.
“First of all, experts have confirmed that this outbreak and the rapidity of the spread, including populated centers like Monrovia and parts of Lofa is unprecedented. And, therefore, no government could have been prepared to deal with sheer size of the problem,” Brown said.
He said Liberia has made an appeal for international assistance to deal with the outbreak.
“We need PPE (personal protection equipment), we need gloves, we need medical supplies, we need experts, we need clinicians, we need sanitation experts [and] we need health care workers,” he said.
Brown said that although Sirleaf will not attend next week’s summit, the president sees the meeting as an opportunity for Africa to initiate further investment.
“We consider that summit extremely important not just for Liberia but for the continent and our continued excellent relationship between the United States and ourselves. And so, the vice president will lead a small delegation of cabinet ministers,” Brown said.
Butty interview with Brown