Coronavirus prevention in Sierra Leone: What the government is doing – An eye witness report

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.

10 Comments

  1. I personally believe that this article is full of facts and reality on the ground, but my only concern now is the ongoing distractions going on about the allegation of the FRUSTRATED and AYAMPIE former APC Minister Paolo Conteh taking a LOADED GUN to the STATEHOUSE after the initial meeting with the President and his Coronavirus tasks force.

    Just like the lifetime chairman of the APC party’s distraction by firing his Vice President during the height of the Ebola crisis, there is also a possibility that Paolo Conteh was also planning something negative during this Coronavirus. In the USA, you are not even allowed to take a knife to the Courthouse let alone a loaded gun to the White House.

    I hope and pray that the Criminal Investigations Department will do a thorough investigation about this situation and may the Almighty continue to protect our President and the people of Sierra Leone from the Destructive APC and the Coronavirus. Amen and Ameen.

  2. There are a few prudent, inspiring voices on this glorious forum that always grab my undivided attention, with their brilliance and refined candid utterances. My brother, from another mother, Alimamy “Lion that rules the den” Turay ranks enviably high among them all. Unlike the childish, crayon colored, scribblings of men like Bilal Coleman, your comments dear brother, resemble a shiny spotless mirror, that perfectly reflects and lays bare, for all to hear and see what the superficial mindset of the vast majority our people looks like especially those residing in the shanty, scanty, palm wine drinking, ramshackle strongholds of the Good for nothing, unproductive, visionless SLPP.(lol) Bravo! Absolutely well written, honest and thought provoking! Rising Sun Will Rise Again.

  3. A little fish that lived in a narrow pond,once thought,and bragged to its curious little ones, that its tiny abode,that resembled a giant Calabash,full of vegetable broth was the largest expanses of waters anyone could ever see,not knowing that there were measureless, majestic oceans,teeming with whales, sharks and massive wildlife a billion times bigger than it’s fragile,puny,itsy-bitsy frame.(lol)

    Firstly,I would like the writer to be reminded that Freetown is just a tiny part of our beloved Sierra Leone, a shallow, narrow pond to be precise,and not the whole country that could be likened to the vast majestic bubbling,ocean itself. You cannot measure the efforts of this government accurately by using inflexible single lenses,focused only on one angle,and in a fixed direction; (lol) Nope not gonna work.

    You will have to travel the entire length and breadth of our country in order to be able to reach a truly accurate, admirable, and sensible conclusion. Let me reiterate,to get a flawless assessment of how effective their measures, and efforts really are, you will need rotating, maneuverable,sophisticated lenses to get the clearest pictures,possible that could easily authenticate your claims,and observations. Most pragmatic minds and clear thinkers would easily agree with me,Sir,that your gullible claims regarding the efficacy of the governments ideas,and measures,already put in place to fight the Corona virus are quite flimsy and superficial.Disagree if you want but it’s true!

    Now,let’s move on, and let me clarify things further and much better; If many agree hand washing is considered the first stage for prevention, and the second stage is testing, the third treatment,where are the urgently needed quarantine facilities,fully equipped with respirators,facial masks,and trained medical personnel,motivated,energized and waiting with all the indispensable tools needed to fight the Corona virus?You seriously think that the airport is the only point of entry into Sierra Leone?(lol)

    Well I have news for you – There are uncountable numbers of them.True! Yep,Open borders,as wide empty,and as green, as huge football fields,neglected,left totally unsupervised,and unattended,24 hours a day, every day. And you think going to few offices and washing hands clean,has everything covered huh? Which crowded markets have you visited in Freetown,Makeni,or Bo,or even Kenema? The answer is none! Yet here you are on this glorious forum trying to persuade and influence prudent minds with your poorly conceived, hastily observed, naive, half baked conclusions.(lmao) Rising Sun Will Rise Again

    • “Yet here you are on this glorious forum trying to persuade and influence prudent minds with your poorly conceived, hastily observed, naive, half baked conclusions.(lmao)” – Mr Conteh please get a grip!! Mr Suma does not participate on this forum. Let us respect his opinions based on his experience of what he saw on the ground. You are entitled to your own facts and please feel free to continue to express them. But please allow others to do the same without hurling insults at them, especially authors of the stories we publish. Thank you.

    • Yes, what a honest, true and great comment by our one and only ‘Great Sayedna’. Our development strides have been confounded from time immemorial; from day one of the inception of our nation; by the persistent deep rooted ignorance and narrow minded mentality that this awkwardly-built, congested and consequently dirty place called Freetown, is the rich and beautiful country, SIERRA LEONE. If one does not come from, or reside in this over-crowded and hence filthy city, that person is not regarded as an equal – he/she is looked upon as a lesser human being.

      Even diasporans who come from villages as far as Pujehun or Falaba district would somehow impulsively lie to their new friends and associates that they come from Freetown. If asked, where do you come from? The temptation is to say: I come from Freetown – actually meaning from Sierra Leone. A villager from Tihun, or from the outskirts of Makeni, after a couple of months of adaptation in Freetown, would tell you that he originated from Freetown. Wow!!!

      Unfortunately, even the country’s politics revolve on this idiotic mentality. Today, the ruling SLPP party is fighting tooth and nail to construct a non-economical an unprioritized bridge between Freetown and Lungi International Airport because, the main supporters of this party coming from the Southern part of the country, felt disadvantaged if the Capital (Freetown) was centralised. And the same delusional rationale was in line with the abandonment of the strategically placed Mamamah International Airport project. The inept and reckless SLPP felt it was a step towards the eventual movement of the Capital to a central position that is detrimental to their demographics.

      The whole episode is reminiscent of the ‘Battle for Freetown’. But until the Capital is centralised, the development of Sierra Leone is at the juncture of a crossroads. The centralisation of the capital is the only way for Sierra Leone to derive its inherent logistical scale economies. When will Sierra Leoneans come out of their falsehood and stop fighting for cosmetic realities?

    • It appears that Saidu Conteh, the lifelong APC Krugba on this forum, is a petulant child that is so impulsive that he cannot stay out of trouble.

      If Saidu knew Mr. Jesmed Suma very well, he would have learned that Suma is no friend of President Bio and the SLPP. The guy is a strong NGC man who would attack Bio and the SLPP whenever there is good reason to do so. But that said, the classy and patriotic Suma differs from APC sycophants and water carriers like Saidu in that he does not engage in destructive criticisms or outright lies for the sole purpose of scoring a cheap political point.

      Suma’s article is a well balanced portrait of the objective reality of what he saw on the ground in Sierra Leone. Why must the peevish and grouchy Saidu Conteh be angry at any good news coming from the motherland? Has life in the opposition become extremely unbearable?

    • Adding to Mr. Saidu Conteh’s question – “Which crowded markets have you visited in Freetown, Makeni, or Bo, or even Kenema”? – Did Mr. Suma visit the so called Lungi Airport squalid Hotel were Sierra Leoneans were complaining about poor hygiene and sanitary conditions? As far as I am concerned and what was reported during the Chief Minister, the HRCSL strong woman and others that visited this squalid hotel was, there were no such hygiene procedures in place. The Chief Minister, his delegation and the HRCSL strong woman, just entered the squalid hotel without using sanitizer or soap before and after meeting with the distressed and unhappy travelers. Can you imagine? Was what Mr. Suma saw at the the Airport and other places all political optics set up by the administration, pretending that the country is adhering to the basic hygiene and sanitary procedures? Thank you very much Mr Saidu Conteh for asking those relevant questions. God bless Mr. Suma and Mr. Saidu Conteh.

  4. It’s a good try by the government and we too as citizens need to put every effort in place in the fight against the COVID-19, so it does not reach our country.

  5. Pay careful attention to your everyday hygiene. It is better to be a surviving hound than a brave dead lion. 

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