Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 March 2020:
President Bio this afternoon made a sombre, though reassuringly confident announcement about Sierra Leone’s first coronavirus case. He is a 37 years old Sierra Leonean who travelled from France on a Brussels airline arriving at Lungi airport just over two weeks ago.
But there are now controversies surrounding the facts of this case, as family members of the infected gentleman took to social media to contradict the report given by the country’s minister of health – Alpha Wurie, whom many are now calling for his sacking.
President Bio said that the infected person “arrived on the 16th of March 2020. He was immediately placed in quarantine. He was tested at the end of his quarantine period and his result came back as positive”.
But the sister of the infected gentleman, says that her brother was tested after the quarantine period of 14 days, and was given a clean bill of health and issued a certificate to go home. She said that he called his wife who is a doctor to send a vehicle to pick him up as he was feeling unwell to take him to the 34 Military Hospital, where he was again tested and was confirmed positive last night.
Speaking at State House this afternoon, president Bio started by reminding the nation about measures the government has put in place to manage the spread of the virus into the country: “From the outset my government has prioritised actions to prevent, protect and curtail the spread of this highly infectious and deadly corona virus,” he said.
“We have fully urged citizens to observe enhanced hygiene practices, social distancing and cough etiquette. We continue to actively disseminate information about symptoms of covid-19.
“I urge all citizens to report themselves, loved ones or community members who may exhibit flu-like symptoms, including fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing.
“We have boosted our surveillance and response structures and facilities, We have appointed a lead government of Sierra Leone COVID-19 Response team, led by the interim coordinator – Retired Brigadier Hassan Kellie Conteh – the minister of defence. We have activated the emergency operations centre to level 2, with all attendant pillars being positioned; testing, isolation and treatment facilities to care for the sick.
“In the last few days we have received additional equipment and supplies. Let me reassure every citizen that our healthcare facilities are safe, and our health workers are trained and ready to respond to any case.
“The safest place to get comprehensive medical care is the hospital. We have engaged development partners and discussed how we can leverage their interventions, in order to soften the impact of COVID-19 on our social and economic life, and to support and protect the vulnerable in our society.
“We have declared a state of public emergency, suspended all commercial flights and closed all land and river borders to the movement of people. All educational institutions – from early childhood education centres to tertiary education institutions will close today Tuesday, 31st of March 2020 until further notice.
“We applaud private and state entities that have complimented our effort at communicating about coronavirus to our citizens. We are also most grateful to the inter-religious council that even in the deepest of turmoil, has guided our supplications to God – Allah (Subwana-wattaAllah) to grant us wisdom, courage and understanding to fend off this threat to our nation.
“May I extend my deep and sincere gratitude to the parliament of the Republic of Sierra Leone for the gracious show of national solidarity, in approving a state of public emergency and strengthening our collective hand to fight this deadly menace to our nation.
“As a government we have promised that our response will not only be flexible and multi-approach, but also agile, robust and comprehensive. We will continue to adjust our response level based on ongoing risk assessment and as circumstances warrant. I also promised that we will be open, transparent and responsive to the views of citizens because we believe that openness cultivates trust and confidence in what we are doing and why we are doing what we are doing.
“In my first address to the nation, I indicated that it was not a matter of whether but when. Ladies and gentlemen – the when is here.
“I called this press conference today, to announce that Sierra Leone has registered its index case. Case number one is imported. I repeat – case number one is imported. He is male, 37 years old, and came to Sierra Leone from France on Air Brussels flight, on the 16th of March 2020. He was immediately placed in quarantine. He was tested at the end of his quarantine period and his result came back as positive. Now as a nation we should know that every minute matters.
“In order to prevent possible community infection, we have quickly isolated case one. We are immediately and aggressively operationalised tracking and surveillance of all primary and secondary contacts. That is, every person case one may have come into contact with.
“Those persons will be placed into mandatory quarantine, and tested immediately starting today.
“From now on, I direct that care teams are to actively seek out and compulsorily test all suspected cases. I also direct the following measures, and must be implemented immediately:
“The government of Sierra Leone COVID-19 Response Team must now fully be activated. And as I have indicated, that team is led by Retired Brigadier Kellie Conteh – minister of defence. He will work to oversee and work with all sectors to a coherent national response to COVID-19.
“We strongly urge all citizens to observe all hygiene and social distancing protocols.
“Hospital is the best place where professionals can offer you comprehensive medical care.
“If you see a person with a symptom at home, the entire family and community is likely to get infected and die. Keep yourself safe and keep your loved ones safe by presenting them for immediate testing and healthcare.
“Again, immediately report all persons whose symptoms include dry cough, fever, and difficulty breathing.
“A number of additional measures are in effect, starting today; and I strongly urge strong compliance from every citizen. This will affect the transportation sector, traditional practices, religious practices, trading, entertainment, etc.
“The National Covid-19 Response Secretariat, led by Retired Brigadier Kellie Conteh, will announce the full raft of measures immediately after.
“Let me reiterate – this is not a lockdown. This is not a lockdown. But the government will respond rapidly to changes in situation by announcing additional enhanced measures.
“As I end, fellow citizens, over the last four days we have offered supplication to God – Allah subwana-wattaAllah), to protect His people. These are not normal times. These are the times to be deeply thoughtful.
“In the coming days, lets keep reminding one another that we have responsibility to keep one another safe.”