Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 April 2020:
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sierra Leone now stands at 10, following the discovery of two new cases today. Yesterday’s 8th case is believed to be a South African lady who has been in quarantine.
Yesterday, neighbouring Guinea recorded 18 new cases, bringing their total number of confirmed cases to 212, with zero confirmation of deaths, as well as 15 people having recovered from the virus and sent home. And in Liberia there are 37 confirmed cases, with 5 deaths and 3 recovered patients to date.
Today’s increase to double digits in Sierra Leone, comes as the country tonight commences its 14 days evening curfew, starting at 9pm and ending 6am Sunday.
The 14 days partial lockdown as the government calls it, also include the banning of all people movement from one district – including the capital Freetown to the other, excluding transportation of goods.
The evening curfew will allow shops selling necessities, pharmacies and fuel stations to open for business, following report of frontline staff including doctors and nurses unable to buy fuel during the three days lockdown.
But the announcement of the 14 days partial lockdown brought chaos to the south-eastern district of Kailahun on Thursday, 9th April, when hundreds of rioting youths took to the streets in protest and defiance of an earlier public emergency order passed by the district council chairman – Mr Gbessay Jusu Jaka Ngobeh, calling on all citizens of the district to stay indoors after 6pm.
This confusion and muddle brought a dangerous standoff between angry youths and police as well as armed military personnel.
Critics say that the president could have avoided this chaos by first of all publishing the emergency regulations in the national Gazette as required by Law and as promised to parliament – detailing the measures to be imposed by the government.
Also, when the president announced the fourteen days partial lockdown during his review of the completion of the three days lockdown, he should have immediately informed the nation about the fourteen days partial lockdown and what it entails, so as to avoid dangerous misunderstanding and confusion in the country.
In order to avoid similar confusion and chaos breaking out elsewhere, the government’s COVID-19 Emergency Task Force comprising of Major General David Taluva (Field Operations-RSLAF), AIG Elizabeth Turay (Field Operations-SLP), Minister Tamba Lamina- (Local Government Coordination), Mohamed Orman Bangura (Youth Coordination), Dr Sartie Kenneh (Health Coordination), Brig. Foday Sahr ( Head Technical Pillar, COVID-19 Response), Abdulai Caulker (Decentralised Security Coordination) and Rtd. Col. Tucker (Monitoring Operations) left Freetown on Thursday to formally establish District Emergency Operations Committee (DIEOC) in each of the 16 districts of Sierra Leone.
According to reports, “the aim is to standardize field command structures in all districts. As part of the COVID-19 response action plan, efficient and effective field operations are critical to rolling out strategies and policies in support of the experts in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. A centralised command structure will strengthen information systems, ease coordination of activities, clarify and enhance upward reporting and downward command instruction channels. The team will engage regional and district stakeholders in an effort to identify hiccups and challenges with the view of harmonising efforts in addressing them”.
With a total number of people in quarantine now numbered 445, there are reports of maltreatment of Sierra Leoneans held in quarantine at the Buya Hotel in Port Loko, where they are said to be deprived of food, water and hot drinks.
According to reports, those at the Hotel are paying for essential items such as water, tea bags, milk and sugar. The government is yet to respond to these allegations.