Sulaiman Stom Koroma: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 April 2020:
The streets of Freetown are entirely quiet today, you can barely see people walking around, except for few security personnel, vehicles carrying essential staff, monitoring groups, NGO, INGOs, and ambulances.
This Covid 19 lockdown brings memories of 19th – 21st September 2014 Ebola lockdown. By then, Sierra Leone was one of the countries worst hit in West Africa.
During that period, people were not allowed to leave their homes, they were expected to stay indoors until a thorough search and contact tracing was done. The outbreak had killed about 2,100 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria during that period, and more than 20 health workers hade lost their lives to the virus in Sierra Leone since the start of the Ebola outbreak in March.
Today, we are not fighting Ebola but fighting a pandemic that has cost the lives of over 47,000 people all over the world, tens of thousands of deaths and over a billion under quarantine.
On the 31st of March, the president of Sierra Leone – Julius Maada Bio, declared that the country has registered its first Covid 19 case, a 37 years old man who was traveling from France through Brussels airlines.
A day later, the second case was announced – this time a medical doctor who says she hasn’t come in contact with case one, but rumours are that she was treating a foreign patient who was showing signs of the coronavirus.
As of today, Sunday, April 5th the country has already recorded six positive cases.
To enable government and health workers to trace people that those infected might have come in contact with, the government announced a three days lockdown starting today – 5th to the 7th of April. And that’s why the streets are empty and lonely today.
Timothy Sam is the Disaster Risk Management Specialist at Plan International Sierra Leone and one of the observers monitoring the lockdown in Freetown. He says there is readiness by the government and people to fight the virus, and there has been the acceptance of community and humanitarian actors to break the chain of transmission of the Covid 19.
“On the whole, the majority of people are willing to stay home, there is surveillance activity across the city, backed with intense social mobilization in some communities. However, some communities need sensitization on the need for being quarantined and to stay at home during the surveillance,” he said.
According to Police Deputy Spokesman – Samuel Saio Conteh, there is about 80% compliance from the public in observing the first day of the lockdown.
“There were some few misunderstandings between some people and the police in some communities, but we have been able to sensitize the communities about the role of the police during this lockdown and equally so encouraged our police officers to operate within the law,” he said.
“In total, we deployed about 2,000 police officers in Freetown to ensure people comply with government restrictions,” Conteh also said.
The irony of this lockdown is that the incubation period for the virus is 14 days. So, declaring a three days lockdown may not yield the intended dividend. However, some sources close to the government say there is a possibility of a fourteen days lockdown, but they did not say when.
Over the next three days, people will remain in their houses; shops and businesses closed, vehicles and other forms of transportation grounded, to reflect, pray and stay safe, while the health workers continue their contact tracing duties.