Sierra Leone now has 35 COVID-19 cases – is the government looking after our healthcare staff?

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 April 2020:

Sierra Leone has in the last twenty-four hours recorded 5 new cases of the COVID-19 virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 35.

But as the number of cases rises slowly, questions are being asked about the effectiveness of the government’s strategic response, which focuses on contact tracing and quarantining without the capacity to carry out any meaningful testing of large samples of  the population where cases are being found.

A few weeks ago, the government reported that it had about 2,800 test kits in the country. It is not clear how many now remains in stock, as the government contemplates a much longer and tougher national lockdown, spanning 14 days, which many believe would be disastrous for millions of poor people and local businesses.

Today, there are reports of dozens of nurses in the healthcare system in the capital Freetown, Kept in appalling isolation by the government, suggesting that the government is either losing grip of the situation or simply abdicating its moral and constitutional responsibility to its citizens.

Umaru Fofanah – the BBC reporter in Freetown, says that over one hundred nurses are in quarantine without drinking water and cooked meal:

“The Secretary General of the Sierra Leone Nurses’ Association has expressed outrage at the treatment of some of their members who have been “crammed inside the Ola During Children’s Hospital” in Freetown for between one and three days suspected of carrying the coronavirus.

“Haurace Nyandemoh told me that up to 112 nurses had all been quarantined together at the facility which has now been closed to patients.

“He said two of that number had tested positive but had still not been removed from the place “with the risk of cross-infecting others”. One of those in quarantine told me that they were struggling for water “with only raw food and charcoal given to us late yesterday to cook”. Another said that they’d all had to be sharing “the same toilet and bucket”.

“The president of the association, Elizabeth Lemoh has appealed for her colleagues to be moved to “a safer location and treated humanely while further tests are being done”. Information minister Mohamed Rahman SWARRAY says the EOC was trying “to transition them to a more comfortable place today”. Meanwhile in Kenema in the east, a group of people deemed to have come into contact with the recent confirmed case have been quarantined inside a school. Some of them have also spoken to me about “very poor conditions with a shared toilet, no running water or electricity,” reports Umaru Fofanah.

The government of Sierra Leone has received tens of millions of dollars to help combat the virus, and so far, with its COVID-19 strategy now unravelling, questions must be asked about how that money is being spent by ministers and officials.

The Director of the the civil rights group in Sierra Leone – The Campaign for Human Rights and Development (CHRDI), Mr Abdul Fatoma, told the Sierra Leone Telegraph: “If we can’t keep our doctors and nurses safe, how can they – and we – fight dangerous pathogens and keep us all alive? Violations or lack of attention to human rights can have serious health consequences.

“Overt or implicit discrimination in the delivery of health services – both within the health workforce and between health workers and service users – acts as a powerful barrier to health services, and contributes to poor quality care.  In order for our health workers to provide the necessary care during this outbreak and other possible emergencies, they must be equipped with the right information, resources and protection they and their patients deserve.”

7 Comments

  1. Bilal, all those nations you cited, like Sierra Leone neglected the importance of covid 19. That is why they all are where they are today. Stop washing your hands with your spit, when you are in the middle of the river. Instead wash your hands frequently with h20 and soap for at least 20 seconds. That would be much better for you.

  2. Based on the information from the United Nations, at least 300,000 people in Africa will die from the Coronavirus within the next three to six months because the reality is no country in the world including the USA is well prepared to handle this destructive disease. In my personal opinion, I think it’s time for our government to prepare our citizens for the obvious that lives will be lost within this period even with thousands of available ventilators ( life support machine) which needs to be operated by qualified respiratory therapist and about 80% of patients never recovered from this machine.

    The people of Sierra Leone must make the tough choice if they are ready to be part of that statistics or simply follow the guidelines of the government which cannot be successfully imposed by even the most powerful military in the world as was evidence in the quarantine centers that were established few weeks ago. I hope and pray that the Almighty will minimize the number of deaths from the coronavirus in our country. Amen and Ameen.

  3. Upon thorough inspection, the Bio’s regime approach in dealing with the Corona virus crisis can be equated to the Trump administration approach, at least the overconfidence and ignorant aspect of it. For weeks, both regimes had the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view into the destructive nature of the virus as multiple developed nations pay heavy toll in human life after the invisible enemy covertly invaded. Instead of taking stringent measures and unbiased implementation of isolation, quarantining of suspected individuals like what we observed by the Chinese in Wuhan province, these regimes instead opted for a public campaign of ‘knowing it all’ and ‘fully ready to defeat the enemy’.

    By all indications, the carriers of the virus into Sierra Leone were among the individuals who had arrived in the country after the March 14th mandatory quarantining of all international arrivals from the affected countries. So from the look of things, a naive individual might think the government had done everything right to have ‘nip it in the bud’. However, when one looks at how this policy was implemented, a scratch on the surface reveals total failure by the regime.

    Many will think quarantine means, a total isolation, protective physical contact, or minimal human interaction is enforced. When it comes to Sierra Leone, this was definitely not the case. Almost all the quarantine arrivals were allowed to interact among themselves in various hotels including hotel staff and other members of the public. In addition to this huge lapse, those who have connection within the government were secretly being smuggled out of the quarantine facilities for reason best known to the authorities.

    With the aforementioned facts, it absolutely makes no sense for anyone to declare that the Sierra Leone government had done everything right that is expected from a responsible government. Only diehard delusional regime supporters like the Trump supporters in America will think everything is under control.

  4. We are not talking about sensitization measures by President Bio or what is happening in New York or other developed countries. We are talking about what is happening in Sierra Leone. Our health professionals just don’t have sufficient PPEs to protect themselves Mr Coleman. How can you see social distancing happening in Congo Market, Dove Court Market or any other busy areas in Sierra Leone? These are places not like malls in advanced countries. Explain to me Mr. Bilal Coleman, how you can achieve that. Also, our opposition, of course the best opposition ever, have played their part. Even the people of Sierra Leone have played their part. They are making sacrifices during these lockdown which is very difficult. Everyone is in a sort PRISON at the moment. Do you agree with me, Mr. Bilal Coleman?

    Nobody is saying that the government has tackled the problem badly or hasn’t a good plan. What I’m saying and will always say and say it again is this – the Bio Administration and Government, government, government, responded to this crisis very late. Lazy leadership. Another question for Mr. Bilal Coleman; where can the government source any PPE materials for our Doctors and Nurses to combat this outbreak right know? Finally, it is the responsibility of the Bio Administration and government to make sure our country meets its needs to fight this virus.

    The Pin Code of the government’s “All in One Account” is with the President and not with the opposition or people of Sierra Leone. Again, the Bio Administration and the Government, government, government is not prepared to face an all out Coronavirus outbreak. Finally, any lockdown should serve the purpose of massive testing, isolation and more important, backed by emergency relief supplies (food, medication and clean drinking water) to replenish stores and hospitals. But does our government has that capacity Mr. Coleman to do that? God help Mr Bilal Coleman think about Sierra Leoneans and not the Government, government, government.

  5. A very dangerous situation. The government has to make greater efforts in the health sector and forget about nonsense projects like the lungi bridge. And what is it with the poor people of the Moa wharf community and the other slum communities in Freetown, I read about in “politico”? I would like the telegraph in future to bring more reports about the ordinary people of Sierra Leone and their situation.

  6. Bottom line, the Bio Administration is not well prepared for the fight against Coronavirus. Disappointing Stuff. The moment of truth is in sight. If our Doctors and Nurses don’t have the right PPE to protect themselves and their patients, then, I’m afraid, the government will lose this war and many people will die, God forbid, if there is an all out outbreak of Coronavirus.

    The question is very simple; how can you send soldiers to the battlefield without ammunition? Our Doctors and Nurses just have to get the right PPEs to face Coronavirus. They are the ones who will be at the Coronavirus battlefield. Not the Army. There is no other option. Have to.

    The trouble the Bio Administration is now facing, is their late response to this crisis. What they are doing today, is what they should have started doing since December last year. They were warned on this glorious platform, time and time again, about the dangers of Coronavirus and what steps must be taken, immediately China announced the outbreak in Wuhan. “Ah Ya”, they never listened. Now, with all the two billion leones funding announced to fight this no respecter of persons virus; materials and equipment for our Doctors and Nurses are almost impossible to be sourced anywhere in the world.

    I don’t see how Sierra Leone will fight this deadly virus if there is an all out spread and admissions of Coronavirus. We now have respectable, responsible, serious and credible Sierra Leoneans at the forefront of this fight against Coronavirus. But what could they do at this moment to help protect our Doctors, Nurses and people? It’s too late now in my view. God help protect Sierra Leone from Coronavirus and God bless Sierra Leone. Difficult times ahead.

  7. Government, government, government. While it is critical for government to play a leadership role in the fight against the deadly corona virus, empirical evidence suggests that no government anywhere can by itself defeat the rampaging pandemic. We have seen how powerful governments in Europe and America were caught flatfooted by a virus that runs amok.

    The lesson for Sierra Leone is that all hands are needed on the deck. Where are the civil society organizations? Where are the NGOs? Where are the opposition political parties?

    Under the circumstances, the Bio government has done extremely well. The president himself undertook sensitization measures around the country weeks ago as neighboring Liberia and Guinea were invaded by the deadly enemy. Of the four Mano River Union countries (Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast), Sierra Leone was the last to register a case. And given that borders separating African countries are largely porous, the Bio government should be commended for keeping the virus out of Sierra Leone for quite a long time.

    The coronavirus has no respect for the game of could have and should have. New York City, the world’s most famous city, the city with some of the world’s best medical facilities and institutions has been brought to its feet. And so, have such other great cities as Los Angeles, Boston, London, Berlin, Barcelona, Madrid and Milan. So, I don’t know how much extra preparation the government of Sierra Leone could have done to satisfy its critics.

    Suffice it that If the government has already established the parameters and procedures for fighting the disease, the least that Sierra Leoneans must do is to work with their government to defeat the virus. This requires, especially, following such helpful protocols as social distancing and the frequent washing of hands.

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