“The people are now keeping their money and do not want to buy from us because they do not know what will happen in the coming days or months. So now if the government brings about lockdown business, it will be a disaster for us, we the business people.” petty traders
By: Trokon Wrepue – [email protected]/+231776132708
Monrovia: Liberia is currently battling a third wave of the coronavirus with a rapid increase in the number of cases and deaths since the start of June this year.
The World Health Organization WHO said as of 30 June 2021, there have been 3,794 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 123 deaths. As of 28 June 2021, a total of 82,212 vaccine doses have been administered.
According to the US Center for Disease Control CDC, Liberia is highly unsafe for inbound travellers and has raised the country travel alert to level 4. COVID-19 level 4 is the highest risk level as per the Centers for Disease Control’s ranking.
CDC admonished US citizens and other travellers to avoid making a trip to Liberia or get fully vaccinated before travel because of the current situation in Liberia, even fully vaccinated travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.
As the statistics provide terrible COVID-19 related data and other information, there are mixed reactions among Liberians as to whether or not the government of Liberia should institute a lockdown measure as a means to control the movement of citizens and curb the surge in cases.
Some Liberians believe that the government should endeavour to enforce the recent health protocols instituted and warned that if a lockdown order is not issued by authorities to control movements, the country might be fighting a losing battle with an escalating number of infections daily.
Others believe that the compulsory wearing of masks, restrictions on the number of passengers onboard a vehicle and customers at nightclubs and large shopping centers couple of continuous washing of hands measures recently pronounced by the Ministry of Health will work better for the population than lockdown.
In June 2021, the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Health announced new measures aimed at containing the third wave of the coronavirus but Liberia cases continue to hit the peak evidenced by statistics from the CDC and WHO.
With all of what’s happening, petty traders in Monrovia and other parts of the country seem not to be in favour of any form of lockdown as doing so might slow their business and increase hardship.
These local business people are worried that any form of lockdown by the government will cripple their daily transactions, slow progress in their business, create hardship and most especially impact the economy negatively.
One of the marketers only identified as Mother Christine told The Stage Media that trade was booming but since the government of Liberia announced the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic couple with the attaining measures to curb it, customers are now reluctant to buy goods.
“The people were buying from us but from the day they talked about the virus, the buying is very slow. The people are now keeping their money and do not want to buy from us because they do not know what will happen in the coming days or months. So now if the government brings about lockdown business, it will be a disaster for us, we the business people. Now no one is buying so when you bring the lockdown, what will become of us?” She asked.
Ma Christine is worried that should the government think about instituting lockdown measures, the locals will suffer the aftermath. According to her, the government should work out all modalities with the exception of lockdown so that those at the margin of society will survive why the war against the virus goes on.
“If they try it, we will suffer. So the only thing let the government just find a way for us to survive and make our businesses at the same time why we keep fighting the virus. It’s not easy on us.” She continued.
“Many of us here are depending on this business to send our children to school and also feed ourselves. What will we eat when there is a lockdown/ let the government settle us or else we say no to any plan for a lockdown.”
Alvin Sumo is a petty trader at the Waterside Market; he told TSM that he will be willing to stay home or undergo any lockdown again provided if the government will be able to cater to the needs of the citizens.
“For me as a local businessman, if they want to bring lockdown what will they provide for the citizens? If they can provide for us to stay home for the time, there is no problem. We will continue to wear our nose masks, wash our hands and follow all preventive measures.” Alvin said.
“Imagine when there is a lockdown in place, my children will not go to school on time, they will not have their regular breakfast and will not even go to school. All I can say is that we will continue to follow the health protocol.”
Cecelia Doe also sells at the Waterside Market. Like many of her colleagues, Ms. Doe is uncertain as to whether locking down the country will work well for the local businesses and the country.
“She said if the government wants to put in place lockdown measures, it should be able to provide food and other basic needs for the citizens. “What I know is that in other countries when the government wants to lock down the country so if they are willing to do the same, let them go ahead.” She said.
Liberia’s economy, already enduring a challenging domestic and external environment, is now facing the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Bank the Liberian economy contracted by 2.3% in 2019 on the back of weak consumption and output. High inflation, at 27%, eroded purchasing power and consequently welfare. The burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic poses a major threat to the economy. The World Bank report in 2020 suggested that Liberia’s near-term outlook is highly uncertain.
Under the baseline scenario, a sharp rebound is expected with real GDP growth projected to rise to an average of 4.1 percent during 2021-22. However, under the downside scenario, real GDP is expected to recover more slowly, growing at an average rate of 3.7 percent in 2021-22.
In both scenarios, the medium-term recovery will be underpinned by the post-COVID-19 normalization of economic activity and the implementation of structural reforms designed to alleviate constraints on productivity growth and support economic diversification.
Health Authority on Lockdown
Amidst mixed reactions from the public especially business people, the Minister of Health has ruled out a complete lockdown at this stage of the national response. Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah said this is due to compliance by citizens and residents of Liberia.
Dr. Jallah made the statement when she was invited to respond to the Senate’s inquest relative to lockdown measures as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the country.
Cecelia Morlue and Celo Tiah of Prime FM contributed to this article.