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.”
Travel bans and quarantines made some amendments to our plans and changed the daily routine of all of us. However, strict measures must be justified in the long run. People’s lives above all. Keep calm and hope for good.
Thanks to this great and widely read newspaper that the government has come out with a proactive plan to combat Coronavirus. Most of the points if not all were already suggested on this glorious platform long time ago. However, they failed to tell me and the country about putting testing centers in place so that people could go and test themselves for this deadly Coronavirus. I did not read anything concerning the role of the Police and the Armed Forces to enforce self isolation in case of an outbreak or a State of Natural Disaster, God forbid.
The government must not be preparing for a State of Emergency but a State of Natural Disaster in my view. Has, the government any plans to summon all diplomats in the country to discuss this issue and get guarantees from them on how they could help in case of an outbreak? The Coronavirus is right at the doorsteps of some of our diplomats’ countries right now and it’s progressing at an alarming rate. Can you imagine? Bottom line, they just have to work with us. They should be informed officially to help them prepare to help us I reckon. What about suspending visas on Arrival at Lungi Airport?
Finally, I thank the World Bank official who visited the country the other day and I appreciate him for his assurances / support for our country in case of an outbreak. The President did very well by making sure he had a meeting directly with the world bank official. Had he not done that, he or the World Bank official would have been giving some fake news concerning the Coronavirus by some ungentlemen.
Just hear the President using the words like, “more needs to be done” and not saying words like “a mobile team is ready” in case there is an outbreak, which of course would be silly. God help protect Sierra Leone from Coronavirus. God bless President Bio for being candid with the World Bank official.
This Corona virus has indeed struck a blow into the daily activities and plans of every citizen world wide. My 4yrs old daughter and I were supposed to visit Freetown next week. I have shipped and purchased almost everything we will need for our 4 weeks stay. This new preventive measures ushered in by the ministry of health while applaudable have nailed the coffin into our travel plans. Definitely, the trip is cancelled.
One can only imagine the economic ramification that will ensue in the coming weeks taking into account the thousands of diasporas cancelation of this year’s Easter’s visit to mama Salone, who would have brought in the much needed foreign currencies and the stimulation of the local economy by their anticipated expenditures. God help us all.