Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 July 2021:
President Julius Maada Bio has this evening made a nationwide TV and Radio broadcast, after an exponential rise in the number of recorded Covid cases and deaths. In the last four weeks, more than one thousand people have contracted the virus, according to the government.
One hundred and two people have so far died, and it is feared that in the coming days and weeks this number is likely to rise significantly if the government does not put tough measures in place to curb the spread of the virus.
President Bio has this evening responded with a series of measures, including the banning of church and mosque worship for a month, and limiting capacity at weddings and funerals to 50 people.
But there is confusion as to whether funerals and weddings can take place in mosques and churches, subject to the president’s announced capacity limit of 50 people.
According to a government’s spokesman, weddings and funerals can take place, provided attendance capacity is limited to 50 people. He also said that however, normal Sunday and Friday prayers at mosques and churches are banned for a month with effect from tomorrow Friday.
This is what President Bio said:
“Fellow Sierra Leoneans, let me start by paying tribute to the memory of fellow citizens we have lost to COVID-19, their relatives and community members. I also thank our healthcare workers, security forces, frontline workers, experts, and our partners who have stood by us as we battle this deadly pandemic.
“But above all, I want to commend you, my fellow citizens, for your great patience, cooperation, and compliance with public health advisories and measures since the index COVID-19 case on 31st March 2020.
“Together as a nation, and in peace, we have coped with financial and social constraints, restrictions on movement, and the general global uncertainties and anxieties caused by this pandemic.
“We did not renew the state of emergency once it elapsed. We eased restrictions on worship and travel and completely lifted the curfew. We did so then, based on our assessment of COVID-19 infections.
“So far, we have kept our children in schools and colleges at all levels; kept hospitals and all Government offices open; kept public services running; kept congregational worship centres open, kept businesses open; and, supported the most vulnerable of our citizens throughout this period.
“Our Quick Action Economic Recovery Programme has mitigated the impact of the pandemic and maintained our economy on an even keel.
“All Covid-19 emergency response pillars from the national to district levels have remained active. All our policies as a Government have been well-thought-out to minimise the economic and other burdens of the pandemic, to save lives, and to protect livelihoods.
“International partners and institutions have unreservedly praised our competent handling of the first and second waves of the pandemic as we kept case fatality ratios at under 3%.
“However, according to the World Health Organisation, the third wave of COVID-19 is here, and the Delta variant has been recently detected in Sierra Leone. That variant is easily transmitted and it is very deadly.
“More people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last few weeks. More people have been hospitalised and 72% of beds in treatment and care centres are occupied. More people are dying, and the Western Area is the epicentre of the latest wave of COVID-19 infections.
“We have assessed the data. We have carefully examined the patterns of infection. We have closely looked at the trends. We believe we must take urgent and necessary steps to stem this third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sierra Leone and thus save lives and protect livelihoods.
“I, therefore, announce the following interventions:
a) A nationwide curfew is imposed for a period of one-month effective Monday 5th July 2021 from 11pm to 5am daily.
b) Congregational worship in churches, mosques, and other religious places is suspended for a period of one-month effective Friday 2nd July 2021.
c) Restaurants and bars are encouraged to use takeaway services and they shall close at 9pm daily.
d) Attendance at funerals, weddings, and other social events shall be limited to no more than fifty persons.
e) Drivers and passengers are strongly urged to get their COVID-19 vaccination prior to all intra and inter-district travels.
“All prior NACOVERC measures and advisories on proper face- masking, handwashing, and social distancing remain in full force.
“NaCOVERC will enforce these measures strictly. I, therefore, call on all citizens to cooperate with these interventions. These measures will be reviewed from time to time based on scientific data and expert advice.
“COVID-19 vaccines that are available in this country are safe and efficacious. They have been approved by our Pharmacy Board and the World Health Organisation. I, senior members of Government, over a hundred thousand citizens have been fully vaccinated. This vaccine will protect you against COVID-19 and protect your life. I, therefore, strongly urge every eligible citizen to take the free COVID-19 vaccines that are widely available throughout the country. I thank you and God bless Sierra Leone.”
It remains to be seen whether these measures are tough enough and will be fully enforced in the coming days and weeks.