Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 March 2020:
President Julius Maada Bio yesterday announced that Sierra Leone will close its land borders, except for essential commodities with effect from midnight last night, as part of his government’s efforts to prevent the coronavirus from entering the country.
Sierra Leone’s neighbours – Liberia and Guinea have both recorded multiple cases respectively, and there are increasing fears Sierra Leone may soon follow suit.
President Bio made his border closure announcement at State House where he was speaking to Islamic Leaders, who joined the president at State House for the Friday Jumma prayers.
The President thanked religious leaders across the country for observing the government’s temporary ban on all mosque and church services, and called on everyone to continue complying with all coronavirus measures announced by the government.
He strongly urged the people of Sierra Leone to avoid physical contact and practice social distancing at all social and public gatherings.
President Bio also extended his appreciation to the country’s Members of Parliament from all political parties, for voting unanimously in favour of approving the State of Emergency that is now in force.
He said that the state of emergency is not a lockdown, nor is it a cover for political crackdown on the opposition, but aimed at giving the legal framework for the regulations and measures that will help prevent, protect, and curtail the spread of the virus in the country.
He called for the whole country to unite and fight against the coronavirus, entering the shores of Sierra Leone.
The President of the Interreligious Council – Sheikh Abu Bakar Conteh, said that as religious leaders they are praying to prevent the coronavirus entering the country.
He said that the actions taken so far by the government are in line with the Islamic faith, adding that as Islamic leaders – they are in support of the social isolation measures, including the avoidance of public gatherings.
He said that Islam is a religion of compliance and obedience, and therefore urges followers to comply with the measures taken by the government for the general good of the nation. He also call on all citizens to continue praying for the country.
Both Guinea and Liberia have also closed their land borders.
In another, though related development, BBC reporter Umaru Fofanah posted this on social media this afternoon:
“A young man has reportedly drowned as he tried to swim across from Liberia to Jendema in southern SierraLeone, following the closure of the border last night by the Freetown authorities. This has prompted concern that many others may be making it across through illegal crossings.
“Meanwhile the head of civil society in Pujehun District Ibrahim Borgiwa Swarray, says there are chaotic scenes at the border area with dozens of vehicles and hundreds of passengers stranded on either side. He said there were virtually no hand-washing facilities with only three infrared thermometers. “There is only a 45-bed facility for quarantining”, Swaray said, adding that the police and soldiers lacked vehicles and motorbikes to patrol the area with 33 border crossing points most of them unofficial.”