Lockdown not imminent – president Koroma demands military style Ebola war

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 November 2014

Dr GeorgeAnother Sierra Leonean doctor – Godfrey George (Photo), has died of the Ebola virus, after a very short illness. This brings the total number of doctors that have succumbed to the virus in Sierra Leone to five.

Since May, 2014, more than 200 health workers have been killed by the disease in Sierra Leone, with unofficial reports putting the total number of Ebola related deaths in the country at close to 3,000.

But international health agencies say that 1,500 people have so far died, while the ministry of health reports of 1,080 dead. How much more can the people of Sierra Leone take.

There are now calls for another nationwide lockdown in the country. But speaking at the Miatta Conference Centre in Freetown today, president Koroma was in no mood for another lockdown – at least not yet.

The worst casualty of last September’s poorly designed and ill prepared nationwide lockdown was the business community and industry.

And the financial cost of the seven days lockdown to commercial and retail businesses alone is estimated at over $50 million.

The country’s agriculture and mining industries too, suffered huge losses as production grounded to a halt and share values of companies tumbled.

iron ore production in sierra leoneThere are reports today of one of the country’s premier iron ore mining companies – London Mining Ltd., having been sold off by the Receivers to the Bulgarian mining magnate – Frank Timis, at less than fifty-percent its real value.

But it is the massive loss of taxation receipts to the government that has, more than anything else, focused the mind of president Koroma on the real benefits of a nationwide lockdown, as Ebola continues its unrelenting assault on one of the poorest nations in the world.

Last week, the Sierra Leone Telegraph asked whether president Koroma was seeking a military style approach to combating Ebola.

President koroma - Feb 2013Speaking at the Miatta Conference Centre in Freetown this afternoon, this is what he said: “We are not entering into a military regime, but there is a need to adopt a robust military approach in tackling Ebola.”

According to State House report from Freetown, the government is now rolling out this new approach in combating the spread of Ebola.

The president today Tuesday, 4th November, called on politicians across the political divide, tribal and religious leaders to intensify their efforts, so as to break the chain of transmission of the disease.

IMATT10He confirmed that this new approach will involve the continuing deployment of both military and police personnel across the country. “We won’t compromise with anybody. We have to take the sick out and take responsibility with firmness. We must end Ebola now.”

President Koroma also urged the people of Sierra Leone to be more responsible, if the virus is to be defeated. He said that religious and traditional leaders should adopt a more proactive leadership role to engage with the grassroots in fighting the disease.

Ebola riotingAs in previous addresses, he called for the youths to be mobilised, and for members of local communities to be used as contact tracers, surveillance officers, and social mobilisers, but fell short of calling for another national lockdown.

Instead, he said: “We have protracted the fight for so long; the facilities are here now. There should be no new transmission.”

President Koroma warned against those in society that are conducting practices, which are putting entire communities at risk, to desists – such as secret family burials, touching the sick, and washing the dead.

Reminding the nation of where he thought the country was before Ebola took everyone unawares, he said Sierra Leone was among the top ten fastest reformers, and had attracted a lot of foreign direct investments.

“We don’t want to make Sierra Leone a UN field; we want to engage people on development issues and re-position ourselves to where we were as soon as possible,” said president Koroma.

Following his meeting with civic, religious leaders and politicians, president Koroma went across to the Brookfields Stadium, where he witnessed British Army medics training Sierra Leonean soldiers and health workers on the safe use of personal protective equipment (PPEs).

The president then visited the main hospital in Freetown – Connaught Hospital, where he was shown a piece of land that will soon house a new extension to the hospital.

According to State House report, the extension will include new wards, a cancer unit, a pathology and administrative unit.

But today’s presidential ‘pep-talk’ was overshadowed by the worrying report of the arrest and incarceration of popular radio talk-show journalist – Dr. David Tam Bayor, who tonight is said to be gravely ill in police cell.

The reason for his arrest is not clear, but analysts say that Dr. Bayor has been a thorn on the sides of the government for a very long while, and is regarded by some ministers as a serious threat to national security.

But today’s clamp down on civil liberty, will be regarded by many in Sierra Leone as an example of the government losing grip not only on reality, but the fight against the deadly enemy of state – Ebola.

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