Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 March 2020:
The government of Sierra Leone has stepped up its coronavirus 19 vigilance by introducing new travel restrictions, after an employee of the European Union delegation in Guinea yesterday tested positive for the coronavirus. According to reports, the patient had self-isolated after she felt ill upon returning to Guinea from Europe.
There are now fears the coronavirus may soon rear its head in Freetown, Sierra Leone where concerns are being raised that the flight which flew the Belgian coronavirus carrier to Guinea, made a transit stop at Lungi airport in Freetown, with possibility she may have infected passengers who disembarked at Lungi.
According to Sierra Leone’s ministry of information, 110 people have so far been quarantined and observed; 85 have tested negative after completing the quarantine period; and 26 are currently under observation.
Last night, Sierra Leone’s Chief Medical Officer and the Minister of Health and Sanitation issued this joint public statement:
“In adherence to the implementation of the International Health Regulations (IHR), the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has activated the Emergency Operation Centre (EOCJ at level 2, to coordinate the emergency preparedness and response activities with the goal of preventing importation of cases and mounting a robust response whenever necessary.
“Consequent upon resolutions adopted at the Inter-ministerial Committee Meeting (IMC) which was conducted on the 2nd March 2020, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation is pleased to inform the general public, diplomatic missions and all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) about the following additional precautionary measures:
1. All Citizens and residents in Sierra Leone are strongly advised to postpone intended travel to any country, which has reported confirmed case(s) of COVID-19, with or without community transmission until the outbreak is halted, unless it is absolutely necessary. For those who cannot postpone intended travel, we urge you to observe all necessary precautionary measures instituted by the means of travel and the host country.
2. Travelers arriving at any Point of Entry (POE) in Sierra Leone with any of the following signs and symptoms will be immediately taken into isolation facility for investigation and management: Fever above 37.5 °c, Persistent cough, Difficult breathing.
3. Travelers from countries with less than SO confirmed cases will be documented and followed-up by designated surveillance officers/contact tracers at home for a period of 14 days to ensure compliance with surveillance procedures.
4. Travelers arriving at any Point of Entry in Sierra Leone from countries with 5O or more confirmed cases of COVJD-19 will have to undergo either of the two quarantine methods:
Travelers whose embassies/missions/organizations have identified an isolation facility verified by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation will be taken to the facility to be quarantined for a period of 14 days. Embassies/missions/organizations who opt for this method will be responsible for safe transportation from the Point of Entry to the identified facility.
The Embassy /mission/organizations should provide the names and expected date of arrival of these travellers at least three days before arrival and will be responsible for all expenses incurred during the quarantine processes.
All other persons will be taken to the MANDATORY QUARANTINE FACILITY managed by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and observed for a period of 14 days.
5. We are strongly recommending that travellers from countries with 200 or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 may only visit Sierra Leone if they have very crucial or essential functions to perform in the country at this critical point in time. You are however, advised to stay in your country during this critical period
6. All passengers who arrive with a Laissez-passer /emergency travel certificate/ID card will be immediately taken to the quarantine facility for secondary screening. If there is any suspicion of an illegal attempt to undermine the process, such a visitor will be kept in the designated quarantine facility for 14 days.“
Africa had until now largely been spared the rapid spread of COVID-19, which has infected at least 135,000 people and killed around 5,000 worldwide.
Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Guinea and Mauritania all confirmed their first cases of the new coronavirus yesterday Friday, 14 March 2020, giving the disease a foothold in 19 countries on the African continent. Most of Africa’s reported cases are foreigners or people who had travelled abroad.
Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Senegal, Togo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia have all confirmed cases of the virus.
Senegal confirmed 11 new cases yesterday Friday, raising the total number of cases in the country to 21. Its health ministry said 16 people were infected by the same man who had returned from Italy.
Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has published a statement banning all foreign service personnel from travelling abroad or returning home, until the Coronavirus has been contained worldwide. The statement which is signed by the Director General (DG) – Mrs. Florence Bangalie, said: “The movements of all staff outside their areas of accreditation, are hereby grounded until the disease is being contained worldwide.”