Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 March 2021:
President Dr Julius Maada Bio yesterday held a meeting with development partners and the diplomatic community in the country to talk about the successes of Sierra Leone in the fight against COVID-19, and his government’s plan to roll out vaccination throughout the country.
The meeting brought together the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, NaCOVERC, UN Resident Coordinator, European Union, Deputy Head of the United States Embassy, British High Commission, Irish Embassy, Chinese Embassy, Germany Embassy, the World Bank Country Manager, UNICEF Country Representative and WHO Country Representative.
In his welcome statement, Chief Minister Professor David Francis said the second interface and strategic meeting between the government’s COVID-19 response Presidential Task Force and development partners within the DEPAC framework is timely.
President Dr Julius Maada Bio said the meeting is of special importance in his government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the country has fought a good fight.
“Some of the major objectives of our fight have been achieved by reducing mortality and also making sure that livelihoods are not compromised,” he assured, emphasising that science and data have helped his government’s fight against COVID-19.
He further stated that development partners are an integral part of the fight against the pandemic, adding that the country is entering into an important milestone in the fight by administering the COVID-19 vaccines.
The president said it is necessary that development partners are informed about the government’s vaccination plans.
“We have received vaccines from the People’s Republic of China and another set from COVAX. We cannot roll these out without informing you as partners. On behalf of the people of Sierra Leone and myself, I want to thank you for the many challenges that you have to endure with us in our response to COVID. The support that you have given in terms of PPE and many other technical support. We are very proud of the partnership between us and our donor community in Sierra Leone,” he said.
Speaking for the ministry of health about how the Coronavirus vaccines would be rolled out in the country, Dr Tom Sesay said that Sierra Leone has received 296,000 doses in total, of which 200,000 doses came from the People’s Republic of China and 96,000 doses from the Global COVAX facility.
“There will be a symbolic launch of the vaccines on Monday 15 March 2021 at State House. It will be for high-profile politicians. We are having a conservative target of 150 people on that day.
“It will be followed by a symbolic launch of the vaccines at the Miatta Conference Hall, where we will focus on the Health Care Workers, even though we will be prioritising those that are above 60 years of age. Vaccination for the rest of the country will start on the 22nd of March 2021,” Dr Sesay said.
Highlighting the many successes in the fight against COVID-19 so far, Minister of Defence and Interim Coordinator of NaCOVERC, Brigadier (Rtd.) Kellie Conteh, said that before the outbreak in Sierra Leone, government had put in place many structures that eventually helped in the fight. He added that President Bio had visited many areas in the country to assess the existing structures and the level of preparedness.
“Up till today, we have 3,932 positive cases of the Coronavirus, 1,639 of that number are from women, representing 41.6%, while 2,293 are male, representing 58.4% of the total positive cases. Western Area Urban remains the epicentre for infection in the country with 2,244 cases recorded so far.
“We have trained point-of-entry personnel on Coronavirus case detection across all our border entering points; provided a strategic plan for the response, including a transition plan. We are very much pleased with the laboratory successes because we started with three and today we have six functional labs across the country,” he stated.
The NaCOVERC boss also noted that when the virus entered the country in March 2020, they were testing at least 100 people a day, saying that they have now expanded the number of testing to 1,000 a day.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr Babatunde Ahonsi, thanked the President and the people of Sierra Leone for the opportunity to be a part of the dialogue on the cluster of health issues. He congratulated the country for the success so far achieved in dealing with the fight against Coronavirus.
“Recovering from COVID-19, in our view, is part and parcel of advancing Agenda 2034 Sustainable Development and the progress that can be very rapidly made in achieving the target within the National Development Plan. We still have work to do in terms of risk information and social mobilisation,” he noted.
He encouraged the government to vaccinate a large proportion of the population, and encouraged Sierra Leoneans to continue to observe social distancing, hand washing and the use of facemasks.
“United Nations stands ready to continue to work with the Ministry of Health and NaCOVERC and other partners to ensure Sierra Leone is able to put Coronavirus behind us and, in the process of doing that, strengthen the health system to deal with future health emergencies and very quickly return to the path of sustainable national development,” he concluded.