Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 April 2020:
Sierra Leone has today recorded another two confirmed cases of the coronavirus, bringing the cumulative total to six. One of the infected is an Italian and the other is a Sierra Leonean.
According to reports, both are believed to have been in self-isolation after arriving in the country via Lungi international airport last month from Europe. They are both said to be among a group of 41 people that have so far been tested for the virus.
As the state of emergency lockdown starts today, Freetown – the capital, remains quiet as people and vehicular traffic keep off the streets.
But many journalists are complaining that the government has granted media passes to journalists who are supportive of the government to help monitor the lockdown – leaving out those who are not, prompting fears that human rights and civil liberty may be compromised by the government and kept hidden from mainstream media.
This is what the media complaint says:
“It has come to the notice of Journalists (Print and Electronic) that the authorities responsible for distributing passes to Journalists to enable them cover the three days lock down have not been given passes even as there are few hours left to the start of the exercise.
“It is sad and unfortunate that the authorities tasked with this national and most-important task have politicized the issue and are dishing out the passes to politicians, telecom operators, and business people instead of giving them to the essential workers such as health workers and others including Journalists.
“We are disappointed and are hereby issuing a warning to the authorities concerned that we shall instruct our journalists to give a blackout to the exercise and stay at home. We are also sending a message to President Bio, Chief Minister and all other government officials that we are disappointed over the way and manner distribution of the passes for this important public exercise was carried out. Unless you step in to rectify this situation with immediate effect, we are afraid that we shall be forced to withhold our services.”
But how are people, especially those with serious disabilities coping with the lockdown?
Yesterday, the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) reported that it has distributed several bags of rice – each costing two hundred and fifty thousand Leones (Le 250,000) per 25kg bag, Veronica buckets and sanitizers to people with disabilities (PWDs) across the country’s district headquarter towns.
“Staff of NaCSA (including the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Senior Directors, Directors, Programme Managers,) the Anti-Corruption Commission, the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and the Ministry of Social Welfare were deployed in various district Head Quarter towns to ensure transparency and efficiency,” says NaCSA.
Access to water will be crucial in the next three days, as people try to cope staying indoors. And to help alleviate poor access to water, the Guma valley Water Company in Freetown says it will be delivering water to communities across the city at no charge.
“The Management of Guma Valley Water Company is pleased to inform the general public that with support from the Government of Sierra Leone, water delivery to community tanks during the 3 days Lockdown will be free of charge. Therefore all Tank Managers/Caretakers are requested to distribute water delivered free of cost to community members,” today’s published notice from Guma reads.
The security forces and fire service will also be stretched and may face challenges. The Office of National Security (ONS) has issued this statement:
“The Office of National Security (ONS)wishes to warn all Sierra Leoneans to be more observant and vigilant during the three days lockdown. During this period, we are calling on all Sierra Leoneans to be careful in the way they use gas, coal or other cooking agents in their homes as this could lead to disaster if not properly monitored.
“The ONS further urges all citizens and non-citizens alike to observe and respect the lockdown; not to come out but stay at home throughout this period. Failure to adhere will lead to consequences.
“The ONS is also calling on the Police, Military, Doctors, Nurses and all Health Personnel to be vigilant in doing their respective jobs during this period and to collaborate with each other.
“Neighbours are required to be each other’s watchman during this period to ensure full compliance with the lockdown and report defaulters to 117.
“The ONS is also calling on Sierra Leoneans not to treat any sick person during the three days lockdown but to promptly report any sick person to 117, who will send authorized personnel to deal with such persons.
“Remember, a safe and healthy Sierra Leone is to the benefit and advantage of all Sierra Leoneans.”