The president of Sierra Leone has announced a daytime curfew for the next three weeks in some of the country’s last Ebola-riddled areas as a preventive measure against another outbreak of the virus which has killed almost 4,000 of the country’s citizens.
Ernest Bay Koroma broke news of the curfew on Friday, detailing that it will be in effect from 6 AM to 6 PM for the next three weeks in parts of the Port Loko and Kambia districts, which are the only one throughout the entire country who are still reporting new cases. Koroma also launched an appeal towards national vigilance in the efforts to stamp out the deadly epidemic.
He also said that anyone caught breaking the curfew will face jail time for the same period. However, perpetrators might risk increased jail time after Raymond Kabia, Sierra Leone’s District Ebola Response Centre Coordinator, said that those who violate Ebola-related laws will now be sentenced to six months in jail with no release possibility instead of just fined.
This new ruling will apply to any people who are transporting sick individuals in vehicles, participating in sacred burials or washing bodies, and also to traditional healers who try to heal the sick.
There is a fear amongst medical specialist that the disease might re-emerge in full force in northwestern Sierra Leone, with almost 50 new cases confirmed during the previous weeks. Sierra Leone has had the highest number of Ebola cases during the whole Western African outbreak, with over 13,000 infections as of June 24.
However, it had a lower death rate than neighboring Liberia, in which more than 4,800 people died out of 10,600 cases. Liberia has officially considered the outbreak finished since the beginning of May, with no new cases being registered in the meanwhile. Hopes that the last two countries which report ongoing epidemics, Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea, will also be rid of the epidemic in the near future are questioned by the emergence of recent cases. Guinea has reported 13 new Ebola cases in the past week.
Twenty two people are currently being treated in Ebola centers in Kambia and Port Loko, with other 342 being held in quarantine. The nationwide state of emergency has also been prolonged for a further 90 days, albeit with some restrictions being more lenient in economic interests: markets and grocery stores can now operate in Ebola-free areas until 9 PM instead of 6 PM, with restaurants now open until 10 PM and motorbike taxis allowed to circulate until 9 PM.
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