Banner Image: Loretta Pope Kai, the chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia. The DayLight/James Harding Giahyue

By James Harding Giahyue

MONROVIA – The National Civil Society Council of Liberia is calling for the Liberian government to outsource the management of its coronavirus-testing information system amid reports of bribery and extortion by healthcare workers.

The council urges the National Public Health Institute (NPHIL) to reveal and penalize medical personnel who have corrupted the compromised the country’s fight against the deadly virus. Liberia has recorded 148 coronavirus deaths from 5,396 cases as of July 26.  

NPHIL said in a recent Facebook post it was reviewing its testing and result-processing methods as it believes some of its staff were engaged in fraud. It said the workers were swapping COVID-positive samples.

Loretta Pope Kai, the chairperson of the council, said in a news release on Sunday that such fraud was “ungodly, uncivilized and abominable,” calling for an overhaul of the testing system.

“To this effect, the National Civil Society Council of Liberia is requesting the government of Liberia to immediately outsource the testing processes to a more professional and trusted group like the WHO, so as to save our people from dying unnecessarily,” Mrs. Kai said.  “We no longer have a modicum of trust and an iota of belief in those handling the testing and result processes.”

COVID testing is done at a number of locations in Monrovia and other places, including the Roberts International Airport and in Congo Town. People’s information are stored on smart devices and results sent to their mobile phones. But there have been issues about the effectiveness of that system.

The council—the largest conglomerate of civil campaign groups and grassroots organizations—urged the government to select a firm with a better technology and track record to handle test information.

“This will contribute to the accuracy of the results from the beginning to the end of the process,” she said. “This, the council believes, will give Liberians and our international friends and partners confidence in the handling of the COVID-19 situation here in Liberia.” She added the new information technology company  will help restore the country’s reputation in the in the fight against the pandemic, which has claimed the lives of more than 4 million people worldwide from over 194 million cases so far.

‘Enemies of the state’

But the council criticized NPHIL for not revealing the names of healthcare workers who are involved in the COVID-testing fraud.

A policeman washes his hands in Monrovia to prevent coronavirus. The DayLight/Harry Browne

“To the health of the nation, there should be no sacred cows,” Mrs. Kai said. “We are even appalled that since then, the NPHIL and the government have yet to release the names and identities of those involved in this conspiracy against the state.

“Those involved in this unwholesome practice are the real enemies of the state, who we must make an example of,” she added.  

Liberia has been hardly hit by a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic,  with the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning its citizens not to travel to the country late last month. Between the end of May and now, the country has recorded 63 deaths. Its number of cases has also increased by 3,254. A staggering 219 of those cases were recorded on July 3 alone, the highest daily surge of the virus since the pandemic started here early last year.

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