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Sierra Leone’s Three-Day Lockdown Declared Success by Authorities

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While authorities in Sierra Leone have disclosed that a controversial three-day lockdown, which concluded Sunday, was a “success,” frustrated residents reported food shortages in some neighbourhoods of Sierra Leone’s capital city.

A three-day curfew, which began Friday in a bid to contain the spread of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, has been declared a success by authorities. According to the head of Sierra Leone’s Emergency Operations Centre Stephen Gaojia, the exercise was largely successful and the compliance and receptiveness of Sierra Leoneans was “overwhelming.” Speaking to reporters, Mr Gaoji further disclosed that officials “…were able to discover quite a lot of people who have been infected…” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Sarian Kamara confirmed that authorities managed to discover 22 new cases of the virus during the curfew, adding that between 60 and 70 Ebola victims had been buried over the past two days. There was only one incident of violence reported over the three-day period. On Saturday, local civilians attacked health workers trying to bury five bodies in a district located 20 kilometres east of the capital city Freetown. Police reinforcements later arrived to the area and the health workers were eventually able to compete the burial.

Although on Sunday rumours had circulated in Freetown that officials were opting to extend the lockdown, a Health Ministry statement issued Sunday evening confirmed that the lockdown had ended. The statement further disclosed that 75 percent of the targeted 1.5 million households had been contacted by outbreak teams, adding that outreach groups would continue to operate in “hot spots” across the country. Some residents also complained of food shortages in some neighbourhoods of Freetown. While the World Food Programme provided food packages including rice, beans and a form of porridge throughout the three-day lockdown, staffers were not going door-to-door and were instead focusing on serving houses placed under quarantine by medical teams. While agency officials confirmed that their workers had distributed two weeks’ worth of rations to 20,000 households, many residents complained that the provisions they received were insufficient.

The West African country announced the extreme measure in early September, announcing that the lockdown would effectively confine its population of six million to their homes for a period of 72 hours in a bid to stem the further spread of the deadly Ebola virus, which has already claimed more than 2,600 lives in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Only essential workers, such as health professionals, were exempt from the lockdown, as were some 30,000 volunteers who went door-to-door to provide advice on halting the contagion and handling out bars of soap.

Despite most residents in the capital city welcoming teams of health workers and volunteers bearing information about the deadly virus, rumours continued to persist in some areas of the city, with some believing that soap which was distributed by health teams, was poisoned. Persistent rumours such as this one suggest that public education campaigns have not been entirely successful.

According to new data released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday, the Ebola virus has killed more than 560 people in Sierra Leone and more than 2,600 across West Africa, in what is the largest outbreak of the deadly virus ever recorded. The disease, which is also affecting Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Senegal, is believed to have sickened more than 5,500 people. Sierra Leone’s three-day curfew is the most aggressive measure to be taken against the virus by a West African country.

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