Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 March 2020:
Yesterday, President Julius Maada Bio went to visit officials at Lungi International Airport and local hospital in the north-western district town of Lungi to discuss measures that are in place to prevent and avoid the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country.
Addressing staff at the Lungi airport, President Bio said he is checking on the country’s state of readiness for any Coronavirus outbreak, adding that the disease is already affecting other countries around the world.
He said that Sierra Leone has gone through a similar outbreak before with the Ebola Virus Disease, which should serve as an experience to prevent a similar disease from entering the country.
“Using our past experience from Ebola, we thought we should raise awareness about what is happening around the world and how we can secure our country against the Coronavirus. This airport is a major point of entry to the country, so you have to make sure the processes that have been established are adhered to. Those of you working here are at the frontline and you must put measures in place. I want us all to be more vigilant and work collectively to fight the virus,” he said.
Speaking at the Government Hospital in Lungi, the President said that he wants to verify what has been done in the event of any possible outbreak. He said that the nation is depending on its medical practitioners in case of an outbreak, adding that this is why he is calling on them to be prepared.
He also commended the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and medical personnel for the measures that are already in place.
“I want us to go into the mode of washing hands as frequently as possible, reduce handshaking (Photo above: President Bio demonstrating the elbow shake), and using hand sanitizers to make sure that the Coronavirus does not enter Sierra Leone. I am raising awareness so that we all can become fighters against the virus. We are putting plans to ensure you are all well-protected when performing your duty,” he assured health workers.
Country Representative for the World Health Organization, WHO, Evans Liyosi, said that the action of the President to lead from the front, monitoring and obtaining first-hand information on the ground is a move in the right direction.
He said that the virus has entered West Africa, adding that Sierra Leone must do everything to prepare itself for any possible outbreak.
More than 3,000 people have died globally from COVID-19, as the illness is officially known, while more than 89,000 infections have been confirmed in dozens of countries, according to the World Health Organization.
President Bio also visited the Infectious Disease Prevention Centre at 34 Military Hospital at Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown to assess the country’s level of preparedness for the Coronavirus.
Commander, Medical Service at the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Stephen Sevalie, said that they have increased their level of preparedness and are doing their best to tackle any possible outbreak. He also confirmed that they have the capability to get timely mobile deployments.
President Bio said: “I want to thank you very much for the good work you are doing here. I wanted to come here myself and assess our state of readiness”.