First Coronavirus Case Arrives in Liberia

As Liberia gets its first case of COVID-19, some Liberians are shocked to its health system while others see a resilient nation better prepared to handle the crisis. Flashback to the first Ebola Outbreak which took place in Liberia.


On Monday, Liberia declared its first case of the COVID-19, joining the other countries battling the global coronavirus pandemic. Liberia is now part of a growing number of other African countriesβ€”26, now 27β€”who are experiencing their first cases of the virus since the outbreak began in December 2019 in Wuhan China.

Although Liberia appears to have made immense strides since the 2014 Ebola outbreak which killed almost 5000 Liberians and many more across West Africa the preparedness of its health workers and institutions to deal with the treatment of COVID-19 is still a looming question.

In a live address to the nation, Liberian President, George Manneh Weah, announced that the case was brought to the country from Europe by an official of his government who flouted the rules by refusing to submit to established health protocol. According to Weah, the official from the Environmental Protection Agency, along with a handful of other officials, “chose not to be quarantined, in keeping with the health protocols that were in place at the airport.” Mr. Weah announced several new measures, in a bid to halt the spread of the virus including stopping flights to and from countries with over 200 cases of the virus and encouraging social distancing.

In January, the Liberian government laid out a set of protocols to stop the spread of the disease into the country, akin to what was done during Ebola. Among the new measures were rules requiring temperature checking at ports of entry and requiring Liberians returning from China to quarantine for 14 days.

At the beginning of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, many Liberians did not trust the government’s messaging about an outbreak in the north of the country. Bad governance under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and unbridled corruption were cited as reasons for this mistrust from the public. The resulting inaction led to the most lives lost of any country at 4,810.

Unlike 2014 when the Liberian legislature was reluctant to mount pressure on the executive, the current members of the legislature, led by Hon. Dixon Seboe has already called an urgent session with health authorities, following the spread of cases beyond China, to inquire about the country’s readiness to combat COVID-19.

Currently, the new military hospital outside Monrovia is the only health facility that has been designated and is being prepared to treat cases arising from the virus. During the outbreak of Ebola, many hospitals turned away patients due to lack of training, gloves, face masks, and other medical necessities. This led to several preventable deaths including the daughter of a Liberian lawmaker who was experiencing an asthmatic attack. Following the cessation of the attack, her father brought a lawsuit against the government.

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