Jesmed F Suma: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 March 2020:
I must commend the Bio Government’s Corona Virus Prevention measures. There is a greater awareness nationwide, probably stemming from the public’s past experiences with Ebola. Every building I’ve been to, offices or homes alike, one is required to wash your hands and in some cases also sanitize your hands before you enter.
No one offers a hand for a hand shake, especially among the educated class. I am so used to the regular hand wash that I am now enjoying it.
In fact, the hotel where I’m staying with my family – the Radisson Blu hotel, has several prevention points. Upon entering the Compound you are required to wash your hands at the gate if you are entering on foot.
If you are in a vehicle, you must wash your hands thoroughly and also use hand sanitizer as soon as you get off your vehicle. Water, soap and hand Sanitizers are all provided for you at the entrance by two Security Personnel. Once inside the hotel, you have hand sanitizers at various points including every floor.
The Government’s first line of defence is at the entry points, the airport and border points. At the airport, we were required to wash our hands thoroughly with soap and water before entering the airport building and our passports were checked to verify if we’ve recently been to any of the countries with known outbreak.
Then our temperatures were checked; details of our lodging were collected including contact information in the event they need to trace us. I find those measures to be impressive at best.
In the Cities, there seem to be greater awareness. My main concern though, is how much of this awareness is reaching the grassroots. Are there any awareness campaigns going on in different local dialects? I am not sure.
It was a smart move by the President to also reach out to the former Ebola Task Force team. Incompetent as they were, they may still have experiences to share.
But the Government must be cautious in dealing with some of those who were involved in the Ebola funds corruption. They may share their experiences but they have no business directly being involved in the delivery of the coronavirus prevention and management programme – especially in the area of resource deployment.
Caution must also be taken in terms of how far the Government should go in disrupting commercial activities, without any known cases as yet. Our economy is very fragile, the tourism industry is slowly going down.
Some businesses along the beach front, I mean local businesses might need some Government assistance if this slowdown is prolonged.
The govt should now begin to think of innovative ways of boosting economic activities. There are huge food shortages in several stores in the West – particularly in the US and Europe. Can we provide alternatives and fill the shortfall in a short run? That’s something to think about.
Despite the measures announced by the government, I do have serious concerns.
First there is still the possibility that the virus may spread in Sierra Leone and the sub-region because we do not seem to have any means of detecting people who are asymptomatic – meaning, people with the virus who are unknowingly spreading it and do not show any symptoms.
Their body temperatures maybe normal and there will be no sign of fever, coughing or sneezing but they may still be carrying and spreading the virus. For these reason, some aspect of social distancing measures may need to be introduced for at least 30 days followed by the deployment of medical personnel nationwide doing random temperature check from door to door.
Our only line of defence is hand wash and temperature check. Good as those measures are, if we do not have a mechanism of actually testing for the virus, it’s a serious problem. I am not sure if we have the actual CORONA VIRUS TESTING KITS.
Government need to give us updates on their preparedness in terms of logistics and personnel.
The second concern I have is the impact of the virus on our fragile economy. Our people are already suffering as it is. The measures the Government takes to avert a spread and prepare for recovery will be crucial for the future. The effort on prevention with respect to creating the awareness, particularly in big cities coupled up with hand wash and other measures are good, but not good enough.
This is a serious challenge not only for our government but for all government’s around the world. The extent at which citizens comply still falls on the government in terms of how measures are enforced.
The idea that foreigners can give bribe to avoid being quarantined as was the case two days ago at a government designated quarantine area in Lungi is very troubling. I believe it must be investigated and appropriate punitive measures taken to avoid a repeat. Otherwise, the entire nation may be subjected to the dangers we are trying so hard to avert.
Despite any reservations we may have with this Government, it is incumbent upon all of us to do our part to prevent the spread of this dangerous virus. It is our duty as citizens. So I hope everyone will comply.