By: Paul Roberts (Independent Health Reporter)
In a decisive and rather pragmatic move to address the challenges of system and control at the Roberts International Airport which are consequently caused by the overflow of passengers at the Roberts International Airport Arrival Terminal, the Ministry of Health(MOH) and National Public Health of Liberia (NPHIL) have sweetly moved to mitigate the situation and ensure smooth and medically sensitive operations in line with international best practice.
An independent investigation conducted by this writer has reliably established that the new Arrival Terminal at RIA has a capacity of about 150 persons— arguably the smallest arrival terminal at any International Airport the world over. This reasonably argues the point
that Liberia is lowly undeveloped, hence, the need for massive and modern infrastructure development to put the country on par with other nations in the Subregion cannot be overemphasized.
As a result of the narrow and skinny nature of the current RIA arrival terminal, whenever Air France and Brussels Airlines intermittently touch down the RIA about 450 to 600 passengers are expected to disembark and access a terminal that has a capacity of only 150 people at most. At this point, system and control automatically shatter down and the critical concern of adhering to Covid preventative measures becomes difficult if not impossible—thereby putting both passengers and workers alike at risk and possible peril as the deadly COVID Variant virus can spread through person-to-person contact. It is only fair for those slamming the MOH for what is taking place at the RIA to
rationalize the condition of 450 – 600 weary and tired passengers anxiously clamoring to access a tiny arrival terminal that is meant for 150 people. This is certainly a condition that is bound to turn chaotic and dangerous health-wise as the tiny terminal will get crammed up and people will come into contact with each other in violation of the Social distancing protocol put in place by both MOH/NPHIL and the World Health Organization (WHO). The rush of these passengers is naturally understandable. They are exhausted from sitting several hours airborne and want to get home, reunite with families, and access the comfort of their homes including business meetings already scheduled. At this point, they want to leave the airport as soon as possible. This is a scenario that can be compelled to a man about to be released from prison, his euphoria and frenzy are measured out of control.
Consequently, the current quagmire obtaining at the RIA cannot be blamed on MOH/NPHIL, and neither can it be blamed on the authority of the RIA. This must squarely be attributed to the available facility at the RIA. It marvels me how an International Airport meant to serve an entire nation and the outside world would be built in such a substandard fashion? This is embarrassing for Liberia. What was the previous government thinking at the time when they constructed such an airport with tiny terminals? The narrow state of the RIA lingers more questions than answers.
Howbeit, the MOH and NPHIL are not defaulting on their statutory responsibilities by any means neither are they permitting this condition at the RIA to distort the ongoing COVID response efforts led by the. The MOH and NPHIL have robustly embarked on the rapid renovation of the old RIA terminal to provide and ensure adequate spacing for passengers going and arriving through RIA to be properly processed and screened in line with the COVID preventative protocols in place and thus ensuring safety for all passengers traveling via RIA and airports workers as well as individuals assigned at the airport.
According to sources, when renovated, the old terminal will have holding rooms with medical doctors assigned, and where passengers tested positive with the virus shall be held until timely evacuation by MOH ambulance and accordingly placed into hospitalization for appropriate care. Also with the additional spacing expected to be provided soon, social distancing and other measures will be strictly adhered to for the safety of all dealing at the airport.
At the same time, in a bid to curtail the overflowing caused by the horde of people that jam the arrival terminal when mega flights arrive, MOH and NPHIL have ramped up rapid testing with the deployment of adequate Biosensors Rapid Antigens Testing Kits. This testing device has the capacity and modernity to conduct a COVID test and deliver results within approximately15 minutes. This rapid testing would essentially help to stop the overflow and congestion of the arrival terminal especially on days when big International flights are landing at the RIA.
Medical experts have hailed the efforts of the MOH and NPHIL to bring in the Biosensors rapid testing kits, adding it will provide timely and credible data on the level and scale of transmission of the deadly killer COVID Variant occurring on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. Observers are also welcoming the move to provide additional spacing for passengers to be processed and screened consistent with health protocols practiced at all international airports and seaports alike.
More details in subsequent reports.