Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 October 2020:
As countries across the world ramp up their response to the unfolding second wave of the deadly Coronavirus Pandemic that has killed over one million people, authorities in Sierra Leone have decided its time to scale down the government’s response.
This decision was announced by the government’s national spokesman for the Covid-19 Response Centre – NaCOVERC, Mr. Solomon Jamiru.
Since the start of the pandemic in March this year, Sierra Leone has recorded 2,340 cases. According to the government, 1,777 have recovered, with 73 deaths.
Most African countries such as Sierra Leone, have performed far better than the predictions of Armageddon made by scientists early this year about the impact of the pandemic on the continent.
But that is not to say there is room for complacency as little is still known about the virus and its behaviour. Hence many countries around the world are now ramping up their preparedness for a second wave.
So, why has Sierra Leone decided to scale down its efforts?
This is what Mr. Solomon Jamiru said:
“The National COVID-19 Emergency response will scale down by minimum 40% effective 1 November 2020. This decision was reached at a workforce rationalisation conference held from 19-21 October at the Golden Tulip, Aberdeen, Freetown. This marked the 30th week of the Coronavirus outbreak in Sierra Leone.
“The conference was informed by an assessment of the epidemiological data especially for the last three (3) months, which indicates a general downward trend in COVID cases nationwide. With this general downward trend in cases, the Conference concluded that it will not be fiscally prudent to retain the over 9,000 workforce nationwide.
“As at 23rd October, there are twenty-three (23) quarantine homes (all being self-quarantine), with a total of 175 persons in three (3) Districts -Western Area Urban, Western Area Rural and Port Loko Districts. Positive cases currently admitted in treatment and care centres nationwide are below 5% of the total bed capacity which is 984.
“Majority of the Districts have gone for several incubation periods without recording a case (one incubation period is 14 days). For instance, Kambia District has gone up to 7 incubation periods without a case.
“Consequently, the workforce will scale down by minimum forty percent (40%) effective November 1, 2020. In the event of any surge which may require scaling up the workforce, a personnel and logistical re-engagement mechanism has already been agreed.
“Risk allowances accounted for a large percentage of the funding portfolio. The cut will enable refocusing and repurposing funds towards emergency and health systems strengthening which are two critical national imperatives.
“This development does not in any way signal the end of COVID-19. The Response will continue to keep the virus in check, and counts on the cooperation of all.
“NaCOVERC commends the four (4) Regional Coordinators, sixteen (16) District Coordinators, sixteen (16) District Medical Officers, Pillar Leads, Technical and Operations Coordinators and Field Monitors, for a successful Conference.”
The government of Sierra Leone has received hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid and loans to help build the country’s resilience against the impact of the pandemic on the economy. But with export revenue and much reduced tourism income, there are fears economic growth will take a very long time to recover, amid growing unemployment and poverty.