According to health officials, the last known Ebola patient in Guinea has recovered and has been released from a treatment centre in the capital Conakry.
A spokesman for the country’s Ebola co-ordination unit has disclosed that two tests on the patient, a baby, had come back negative. Fode Tass Sylla has disclosed that “the baby is negative and so Guinea today is without a single Ebola patient,” adding, “we are crossing our fingers and praying that nothing will happen over the next 42 days so that we can celebrate Guinea without Ebola.”
Authorities have effectively begun the countdown to the end of the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, which is the last country that was still reporting cases after nearly two years and more than 11,000 deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) declares that Ebola disease transmission has ended when the country goes through two incubation periods, 21 days each, without a new case emerging. The other two countries hardest hit by the outbreak, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have already been declared free of the deadly disease, however in Guinea, authorities have reported that they continued to face resistance in fearful communities, where people initially blamed international health workers for bringing the virus to their region.
In the seven days leading up to 12 July, there were thirty confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) reported in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. While the total number of confirmed cases is the same as during the previous weeks, officials have noted that there has been a shift in the foci of transmission. During this reporting period, Guinea recorded 13 cases; Liberia 3; and Sierra Leone 14.
For the first time in several months, most of the cases that were reported during this period occurred in the capitals of Guinea (Conakry) and Sierra Leone (Freetown).
There have been a total of 27,642 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and 11,261 reported deaths. As of 12 July, there are 3,552 contacts being monitored across 6 prefectures in Guinea; 2 counties in Liberia and 3 districts in Sierra Leone.
Guinea recorded 13 confirmed cases of EVD in 3 prefectures: Conakry, Forecariah and Fria. For the first time in several months, the majority of the cases reporting during this week, 9, occurred in the capital, with seven of the 9 cases being reported in the Ratoma commune (administrative district). The remaining two were reported from the neighbouring commune of Matam. Officials have indicated that all of the cases are either registered contacts or have an epidemiological link to a known chain of transmission.
The small western prefecture of Fria reported a confirmed case this week for the first time in over forty days. Officials have indicated that the case is a contact of a previous case in the northern prefecture of Boke.
The northern prefecture of Boke, which had been a focus of transmission for several weeks, has not reported a case in eleven consecutive days, however officials have warned that cases may still arise as 125 contacts associated with previous cases are still being monitored.
During the reporting period, there were three new cases recorded in Liberia, bringing the total number of cases sine 29 June to six.
Officials have indicated that all of the three confirmed cases reported in the week leading up to 12 July were registered contacts associated with the same chain of transmission as the three cases reported in the previous week.
During this reporting period, there were 14 confirmed cases recorded in three districts: Freetown, Kambia and Port Loko. This is the highest total since the second week in June.
For the first time in several months, the majority of cases were reported in the capital city, Freetown. According to officials, eight of the 10 cases reported from the capital were registered contacts residing in quarantined homes in the Magazine Wharf area of the city, which has been a focus of transmission for several weeks. The two remaining cases both have an epidemiological link to the Magazine Wharf chain of transmission however they were identified after post-mortem testing and therefore represent a high risk of further transmission.
There were two cases reported in Kambia, in the Samu chiefdom on the northern border with Forecariah, Guinea. Officials have indicated that both cases were known contacts of a previous case. The remaining case was reported from a quarantined home in Tonko Limba chiefdom, and was also a registered contact of a previous case.
There was one case reported in Port Loko, in the chiefdom of Marampa. The source of infection is currently under investigation.
In the week leading up to 14 June, there was a total of 24 confirmed cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) reported, compared with 27 cases that were recorded in the previous week. In Guinea, 10 cases were reported during this period in four prefectures: Boke, Conakry, Dubreka and Forecariah. Sierra Leone reported 14 cases in 2 districts, Kambia and Port Loko, during this reporting period.
Of the 76 confirmed cases of EVD that have been reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone over the past 21 days leading up to 14 June, 69 (91%) were reported in 3 prefectures in Guinea (Boke, Dubreka and Forecariah) and 2 districts in Sierra Leone (Kambia and Port Loko).
As of 14 June, there have been a total of 27,305 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of EVD in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, with 11,169 reported deaths.
During this reporting period, a total of 10 confirmed cases of EVD were reported, compared with 12 cases from 4 prefectures that were reported in the previous week.
Cases were reported in 4 prefectures: Boke (2 cases); Conakry (1 case); Dubreka (4 cases); and Forecariah (3 cases). Of these 10 cases, 5 were registered contacts, including all four cases in Dubreka. Of the remaining five cases, 4 arose from an unknown source of infection. This includes both cases from Boke prefecture and 2 of the 3 cases that were reported in Forecariah.
In Guinea, health checkpoints have been set up in the western prefectures of Boke and Coyah. On 7 June officials in Dubreka carried out a 6-day door-to-door case-finding campaign, which led to the discovery of 1 confirmed case. Additionally, intensive investigations are currently underway in order to trace a number of high-risk contacts associated with 3 cases that were reported in the capital, Conakry, over the past two weeks.
During this reporting period, a total of 14 confirmed cases were recorded in 2 districts: Kambia and Port Loko, compared to the 15 cases that were reported in the same 2 districts the previous week.
For the third consecutive week, Kaffu Bullom in Port Loko reported the most cases, six in total, of any single chiefdom. According to officials, five of the six cases from Kaffu Bullom were contacts of previous cases in quarantined homes located in a small, densely populated area near the international airport. One case, however, was reported from a new area of the chiefdom, Targrin, and upon further investigation, the case was determined to have acquired infection after sharing a ward with a confirmed case in a privately run health facility. A total of twenty health workers have since been registered as having a medium – high-risk contact with the case and are currently being monitored by officials. The remaining 8 cases that were reported in Sierra Leone were registered contacts of known cases and were reported from quarantined homes in 4 chiefdoms: Magbema (1 case); Samu (1 case); and Tonko Limba (4 cases) in Kambia and Bureh Kasseh Ma (2 cases) in Port Loko. As of 14 June, the Western Urban Area, which includes the capital city Freetown, has reported no cases for over 16 consecutive days.
Officials have disclosed that all 14 cases that were reported in the week leading up to 14 June can be traced back to the secret movement of cases, contacts and secret burials of EVD-related deaths during April. Consequently, officials are planning to carry out a large-scale operation in the districts of Kambia and Port Loko.
On Friday 12 June, Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma announced that he was imposing a three-week daytime curfew in the last Ebola-hit areas in a bid to curb a resurgence of the deadly virus. The curfew announcement comes after the country on Thursday extended its nationwide state of emergency for 90 days, despite calls from opposition politicians to relax restrictions in the country’s Ebola-free districts.
The president made the announcement on state television, stating that he was imposing “with immediate effect a 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM chiefdom-level curfew” in parts of the northwestern districts of Kambia and Port Loko, which are the only areas that are still reporting new infections. The president has indicated that people in the worst-hit chiefdoms, or areas, of those districts will be confined to their homes for 21 days, warning that anyone found flouting the order would find themselves in jail for the same period. Grocery stores and markets, which have been ordered to close at 6:00 PM, will now be allowed to stay open until 9:00 PM in most parts of the country, while restaurants, which also had a 6:00 PM curfew, have been granted an extension until 10:00 PM. Motorbike taxis, which were previously barred from operating after 7:00 PM, have been given an extra two hours.
The latest lockdown has been called over fears that the disease, which has killed about 3,900 people in Sierra Leone, was making a comeback in the northwestern region of the country. Palo Conteh, head of the National Ebola Response Centre, has attributed the recent spike in Port Loko and Kambia to “people just being stubborn and engaged in the wrong things that fuel the transmission,” adding “some washing of bodies and secret burials are going on and people are taking the sick to herbalists.” A lawmaker is on bail awaiting trial for allegedly ordering the washing, dressing and burial of his 106-year-old father in Kambia in May. Amadu Koroma, a local government clerk in Kambia, has disclosed that herbalists were frequently bypassing official entry and exit points to treat patients in southern Guinea, the epicentre of the outbreak, adding “people have also been escaping from quarantined homes at night and ending up in Port Loko where relatives bring in herbalists to threat them in locked rooms.”
While neighbouring Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May, hopes that Sierra Leone and Guinea would quickly follow suit have, in recent weeks, been dashed. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the retreat of the virus “that was apparent throughout April and early May has stalled.” Sierra Leone’s health ministry has reported that 22 people are in Ebola treatment centres, all in Kambia and Port Loko, while 342 people are in quarantine in those districts and the Western Area, which includes the capital city, Freetown.
Six people have been put in isolation in prison after being accused of travelling with a corpse of a relative who had died of Ebola. If after twenty-one days they do not show any signs of having contracted the deadly virus, they will be tried for violating the health emergency.
According to Guinean authorities, the body was seated upright in a taxi, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans with sunglasses and sandwiched between three others. The head of Guinea’s Ebola response, Dr Sakoba Keita, has indicated that those now in quarantine in prison had been travelling in a taxi with the body of the police recruit from the town of Forecariah towards the capital, Conakry. They were stopped at an Ebola checkpoint where security officials became suspicious when the seemingly well-dressed passenger remained motionless.
Guinea is currently battling to control a recent flare up in Ebola cases. Authorities have reported that relatives of Ebola victims are increasingly transporting their bodies on public transportation, seating the corpses upright between other passengers in a bid to avoid health controls. According to Dr Keita, actions, such as transporting corpses in taxis, account for the continued spread of the Ebola epidemic. Figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week reported the highest number of cases in Guinea in more than a month, with at least twenty-seven new cases reported in one week. They comes as officials were hoping that the outbreak in Guinea was finally coming under control, with neighbouring Liberia recently being declared Ebola-free and Sierra Leone registering only eight cases during the same period. While it is against the law to transport bodies of Ebola victims from one community to another, according to Rabiatou Serah, a member of an anti-Ebola committee, relatives who are concealing bodies are managing to get past inspection agents. Nearly 2,500 people have died in the West African country since the Ebola outbreak began more than a year ago.
Due to “a substantial increase” in the weekly total of new Ebola cases in Guinea, the WHO has deployed a response team to the border with Guinea-Bissau because the country’s proximity to a recent cluster of cases reported in the neighbouring Guinean prefecture. In its latest update, the WHO reported that in the week ending on 17 May, 35 new cases were reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone, effectively the highest weekly total of confirmed cases of Ebola in over a month. Guinea reported 27 of those cases, compared with seven that were recorded the week before. A statement released by the WHO disclosed that “this is a substantial increase compared with nine cases reported the previous week.” It further reported, “the geographical area of transmission has also expanded compared with recent weeks, with a total of six districts reporting cases (three in Guinea, three in Sierra Leone) compared with three the previous week (three in Guinea, one in Sierra Leone),” adding, “because of the proximity to Guinea-Bissau of the recent cluster of cases in the Guinean prefecture of Boke, a response team from Guinea-Bissau has been deployed to the border to assess points of entry… An epidemiological investigation team has also mobilized to ensure any contacts who cross the border are traced.” The statement further noted, “the cases in Boke were tightly clustered in the coastal sub-prefecture of Kamsar, and initial investigations suggest they may have originated from a chain of transmission in Conakry.” WHO officials have indicated that while the exact origin of the cluster in Boke remains unknown, an investigation has linked most of the confirmed cases to four probable cases who attended a funeral of another probable case in mid-April, which may have been the source of the outbreak. Guinea-Bissau has not reported any cases of Ebola.
On Monday, anti-government activists staged new protests following deadly clashes that erupted last week.
Guinean security forces took to the streets of the capital Conakry on Monday as new protests were launched. Calling for a disputed election timetable to be dismissed, hundreds of youths burnt tyres and barricaded roads across the capital city. Police officers responded with tear gas, which led to brief clashes erupting between the protesters and policemen. In a statement released late Monday, the government disclosed that a trainee policeman, who was apparently shot by protesters, had been seriously wounded, adding that two demonstrators were arrested after they caused extensive damage.
Former Prime Minister Sidya Toure, of the Union of Republic Forces (UFR), however claimed “another very successful day for the opposition, which has paralyzed the entire city.” UFR officials indicated that police had fired tear gas at their headquarters as the protesters got underway, with one official indicating that pro-government demonstrators threw stones at the UFR building while police stood by. Toure later stated that “as soon as demonstrations start in Conakry, they always start by hitting the UFR headquarters with tear gas to prevent us from mobilising and going out.” He further indicated that the authorities were desperate to avoid demonstrations on the nearby Fidel Castro highway as “if this route is blocked as well as the Prince highway, its finished for Conakry.”
In a statement released early Monday, Governor Soriba Sorel Camara stated that he expected that the Guinean opposition would be “throwing stones, dumping garbage and burning tyres on public roads,” noting that protests were going ahead despite the capital city still being affected by the Ebola outbreak. Camara called on residents of Conakry to “go about their usual activities,” adding that the state would ensure their safety and secure their property.
Schools, shops and petrol stations remained closed across the capital on Monday, with the Prince highway, which is the main route from the suburbs into central Conakry, almost deserted.
The violence comes after a Guinean government delegation met with opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo for talks at his home on Sunday. A statement released by the delegation indicated, “this step was intended to reiterate to the opposition the government’s willingness to revive the dialogue – the only route that ends with a calmer political climate and inclusive elections.” While Diallo confirmed late Sunday that he had received a group of senior officials, he warned that cancelling Monday’s protests was “out of the question” without the guaranteed implementation of a 2013 agreement stipulating that local elections take place before a presidential contest announced for October.
Diallo’s supporters claim that the electoral timetable was pushed through without consultations and that it gives the ruling party an unfair advantage. They have also blamed President Alpha Conde’s government on the current fragile security situation in the West African country.
Monday’s protests follow violence that erupted last Monday and Tuesday, which saw hundreds of youths throwing stones at police, who responded with tear gas and warning shots. At the time, the opposition indicated that thee people were killed, including an unidentified young girl, and that 50 were wounded during the clashes, with at least 12 wounded by gunfire. The government however placed the number of dead ad two, with dozens injured.