Sierra Leone lifts Covid-19 curfew to ease pressure on economy

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 October 2020:

Sierra Leone’s National Centre for Covid-19 Response (NaCOVERC) yesterday announced that the government has decided with immediate effect, to lift the night time curfew imposed by the president early this year to help curb the transmission and spread of the Covid-19 virus across the country.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, Sierra Leone has had two national lockdowns with invariable results, prompting widespread criticisms of the impact on civil liberty and local economies.

At the end of the second national lockdown, president Bio went on to announce new measures including night time curfew which according to a statement published yesterday by NaCOVERC will now come to an end for a period of four weeks.

But as Christmas approaches, there are fears the government may once again impose another lockdown across the country in December, should the number of transmission and deaths start to rise again. This is what NaCOVERC said:

“NaCOVERC wishes to inform the general public that this is the 30th week of the Coronavirus outbreak which is not yet over. Whilst the epi-data for the last three (3) months suggests a general decline in number of cases, the manner in which the rest of the Response is managed, and the behaviours and attitudes of ALL, will have a significant impact on the epi-curve and public health.

“The nation should be reminded that Sierra Leone has implemented some of the toughest measures aimed at preventing and controlling COVID-19 infection. The health and safety guidelines instituted from time to time to combat the spread of the virus have often caused great national inconvenience and tremendous social discomfort, yet this is deemed necessary and desirable to keep COVID-19 in check.

“The Response has always focused on creating a balance between ‘saving lives’ and ‘sustaining livelihoods’ which informed relaxation of a range of restrictions.

“Noting the current epi-data over the last three (3) months and further noting the enormous impact of the curfew on movement of people, goods and services across the country;

“NaCOVERC hereby announces that effective immediately, the nationwide curfew from 11pm to 5am is lifted for a period of four (4) weeks. ALL other COVID-19 related regulations shall remain in full force, and violations thereof will be appropriately dealt with. Public behaviour during this dispensation may inform any eventual review of this decision.

“The ban on sports and other forms of entertainment, night clubs and cinema centers, secret societies, large public gatherings including street carnivals, and such other restrictions prior will continue to be in place, and the general public is warned accordingly.

“The public is reminded that the COVID-19 outbreak in Sierra Leone has not ended, and our neighbors in the sub-region continue to record cases. With Western Area being the epi-center, and as we approach the festive season, NaCOVERC urges everyone to comply with the health and safety guidelines, including proper use of face mask, regular hand-washing and keeping safe physical distance.”

This decision to end the national curfew comes as the country’s Civil Aviation Authority responds to the naming of Sierra Leone International Airport as too expensive for airlines. Ivory Coast Airline last week decided to end its flights to Sierra Leone.

Responding to this report,  the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA)  in its published statement said that: “The object of the Authority is to promote safety, security efficiency of civil aviation in Sierra Leone by licensing and regulating civil aviation in accordance with the obligations of Sierra Leone under the Chicago Convention and other applicable international agreements.

“To this end, Air Cote d’Ivoire has been operating in Sierra Leone since 2012 Pursuant to Article (2) of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) Agreement that settles for the liberalization of the African Air Transport Market. It was on this ticket that Sierra Leone accepted the designation of Air Cote d’Ivoire as the National Carrier of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire. Once designation was granted, Air Cote d’Ivoire was subsequently given approval to exercise First to Fifth Freedom Rights to and from Freetown – Monrovia – Abidjan.

“On this backdrop, the attention of the SLCAA has been drawn to a letter circulating on social media addressed by the Country Manager of Air Cote d’Ivoire to the Director General of SLCAA stating, among other things, that: “The Resumption of commercial flights to Freetown, the Airline Indicators have shown a massive loss on the Freetown route”. Furthermore, in the said letter Air Cote d’Ivoire stated factors responsible for the withdrawal of operations from Freetown with effect 23rd October, 2020.”

The SLCAA said that: “Based on the comparative analysis of cost on COVID-19 Test within the Sub-Region as presented in the table below only Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire have a relatively lower cost than Sierra Leone due because both countries are only doing secondary screening (RDT) for arriving passengers, whereas in Sierra Leone PCR Test is mandatory for all arriving passengers. From the fact presented, it is evident that the argument presented by Air Côte d’Ivoire is inaccurate.”

Table on Cost of COVID-19 Test within the Sub-Region and beyond No. Country Cost of COVID-19 Test
Inbound Passenger Outbound Passenger TOTAL
1. Sierra Leone $80 $50 $130
2. Côte d’Ivoire $4 (RDT) $90 $94
3. Ghana $150 $150
4. Togo $72 $72 $144
5. Benin $180 $90 $270
6. Nigeria $150 $150 $300
7. Senegal $72 $72 $144
8. Burkina Faso $163 $163 $326
9. Guinea RDT (Free) $67 $67
10. Rwanda $100 $100 $200

High Charges at Freetown International Airport

“The purported loss (USD 260,000) incurred by Air Côte d’Ivoire, as stated in the said letter, is unsubstantiated and unfounded, considering its type of operation (aircraft type, size of personnel, number of frequencies, aircraft turnaround time etc.)

“However, as a responsible and business-friendly government, prior to the commencement of operations again in Sierra Leone in 2019, the government through the Ministry of Transport and Aviation, signed a Memorandum of Understanding granting Air Côte d’Ivoire concessions on some operational costs as a way of demonstrating government’s commitment towards increasing Air Transport connectivity within the Sub-Region.

“Kindly see below the concessions given to Air Côte d’Ivoire.

  1. Landing/ approach 25% discount for 4-6 frequency per week
  2. Free office space facility at the airport for one year
  3. Free usage of trolleys for passengers (which was $ 5 by then)
  4. Free parking of aircraft for up to 24 hours when there is a technical problem
  5. 15% GST waiver on handling charges and other aviation related costs for all airlines operating in Sierra Leone by the government.

COVID-19 Measures Restricting Movements of People

“The claim made by Air Côte d’Ivoire that the COVID-19 restrictive measures have served as high obstacle towards the movement of people and have culminated to greater revenue loss is also baseless and unfounded based on the fact provided below in Table 1 and 2 respectively.

“On the passenger figures below, prior to COVID-19 outbreak as stated in Table 2, the average passenger movement in and out of Sierra Leone on a monthly basis was around 8,000 in 2019. After resumption of commercial air transport within the last three months (22nd July to 21st October 2020), the average monthly passengers figure (table 1) shows approximately 3,700 movement in and out of Sierra Leone.

“This has been referred to as one of the fastest recovery on the continent by our international partners considering the fact that 50% of the market has been recovered in less than six months, albeit, with less number of Airlines that operated in the country before the pandemic.

Table 1 COVID-19 Operations at the FNA (July – October 2020) No List of Airlines Date of Resumption No. of Frequencies

(per week)

Total number of Passengers
1. SN Brussels 30/07/20 2 5615
2. ASKY Airlines 1/8/20 5 2270
3. Air France 4/8/20 2 1198
4. AWA 13/9/20 3 193
5. Turkish Airlines 10/8/20 1 1674
6. Kenya Airways 16/9/20 2 269
7. Air Cote d’Ivoire 15/9/20 3 52
TOTAL 18 11271 3760

Pre COVID-19 Operations at the FNA (October – December 2019)

“In spite of this concern, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation through the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority wishes to assure the general public of its continued effort to ensure greater connectivity, and further notes that the route (Freetown to Abidjan) is still being serviced by Africa World Airlines (AWA) via Accra and ASKY Airline via Lome.”

Pre COVID-19 Operations at the FNA (October – December 2019) No. List of Airlines Date of Resumption No. of Frequencies (per week) Total number of Passengers
1. SN Brussels N/A 4 12450
2. ASKY N/A 7 5482
3. Air France N/A 2 10451
4. AWA N/A 5 3750
5. Turkish Airlines N/A 3 1323
6. Kenya Airways N/A 5 8349
7. Air Cote d’Ivoir N/A 3 1899
8. Air Mauritian N/A 2 355
9. Air Peace N/A 3 2434
10. Royal Air Maroc N/A 4 8096
11. Transair N/A 2 592
TOTAL 40 24,048 8,016

“In spite of this concern, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation through the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority wishes to assure the general public of its continued effort to ensure greater connectivity, and further notes that the route (Freetown to Abidjan) is still being serviced by Africa World Airlines (AWA) via Accra and ASKY Airline via Lome.”

1 Comment

  1. As president Bio takes a dive to the unknown and tries to reboot our sluggish economy, lifting the COVID19 imposed curfew is just one of the strategic planning, and implementation needed for any long term successful outcome for suppressing this virus. Lifting the restriction, should be deliberate, phased out, and above all else incremental. Anything less whilst trying to maintain economic activity will be a disaster. There are many questions about COVID19,and for instance when will a vaccine be made available? No one knows the answers to these questions.

    The only answer we all seem to know, we are going to learn to live with COVID19 for the foreseeable future. Investing in public health and preparing the public, through public information broadcast, social media, about what is at stake is vital, if we are to stand any chance of regaining public trust to go about their economic activity at the same time trying to suppressed the virus. This strategy should not be rigid or set on stone. The plan call for incremental lifting of social, and economic activities, at the same time working with health care officials, NGOs, civil society groups, and local authorities to monitor any flare up, and act like a bridge between the government and the governed.

    An early warning COVID19 system, should be set up in every village and town, enlisting an army of young volunteers locally to inform their local population about the importance of maintaining the COVID19 protocols. Transparency and committed government officials should take the lead. But given the corrupt nature the way our country’s institutions are structured, I am afraid is a big ask. Like corruption in Sierra Leone, this COVID19 pandemic is here to stay. It’s not in a hurry of going anywhere soon. May God bless Sierra Leone.

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