Sierra Leone Telegraph: 02 January 2021:
Last Wednesday, President Bio’s government announced that it has revised its process of screening all passengers arriving at the Lungi International Airport, following an alarming increase in the number of reported new cases in the country.
This worrying upsurge in infection rate in Sierra Leone is said to be related to the sharp rise in the number of visitors arriving in the country for the Christmas holiday from abroad.
In a public statement, the government said that: “Effective January 1, 2021, passports of ALL inbound passengers shall be withheld at the Lungi International Airport by the Immigrations Department until a negative Covid-19 PCR certificate is issued”.
This measure has been adopted, the statement says, because “Sierra Leone has witnessed increased volumes of airline passengers particularly for the past three weeks, and disappointingly, some of them are deliberately providing false information on health locator forms, which makes it practically difficult or impossible for Surveillance teams to track positive cases.”
But what is the latest coronavirus situation in Sierra Leone, and how bad is the resurgence in the transmission of the virus?
According to the latest media update reported by NaCOVERC in Freetown, on 31st December 2020, compared to other neighbouring Mano River Union countries, Sierra Leone recorded 28 new confirmed cases on 31st December 2020 , compared to Guinea with 34, Liberia – 0, and Ivory coast – 116.
Of the 28 cases recorded on the 31st December in Sierra Leone, 20 were from the Western Area Urban; 1 recorded in the Western Area Rural; and 7 passengers arriving from abroad, which prompted the government to announce:
“Wednesday, December 30, 2020 PUBLIC NOTICE. This is to inform that COVID-19 screening of inbound passengers has been revised. Effective January 1, 2021, passports of ALL inbound passengers SHALL be withheld at the Lungi International Airport by the Immigrations Department until a negative COVID-19 PCR certificate is issued.
“Sierra Leone has witnessed increased volumes of airline passengers particularly for the past three weeks, and disappointingly, some of them are deliberately providing false information on health locator forms, which makes it practically difficult or impossible for Surveillance teams to track positive cases.
“As we continue to address community transmission, the Response is deeply concerned about reports of a variant coronavirus in some parts of the world, with significantly higher levels of transmissibility (and probably a deadlier mutant).
“This measure, it is hoped, will help keep cases within the radar of surveillance, thus preventing the unwarranted spread of the virus in communities. The passports will be in the safe custody of the Immigrations Department at all material times, and same will ensure delivery to the rightful holders or their authorized proxies at the designated collection points -NaCOVERC, Kingtom, Freetown.”
So far, Sierra Leone has recorded 76 cumulative deaths, compared to Guinea with 81, Liberia 83, and Ivory coast with the highest number of recorded deaths at 137. This brings the total number of deaths in the Manor River Region to 377.
But many are questioning the rigor and credibility of the NaCOVERC data, in view of the fact that thousands of people die every week across Sierra Leone and are buried without confirmation of the causes of death.
There is no mass testing or largescale sampling being conducted in the country to determine the prevalence rate or infection rate of covid across the country.
According to the NaCOVERC, since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, only 534 tests have been conducted.
This is the latest Covid-19 Update for Sierra Leone: