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Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone on 3-day lockdown to halt spread of Ebola, citizens say it won't work

A health worker gives water to a female Ebola victim in a specialized treatment center in Kenema (Sierra Leone), July 2014.
A health worker gives water to a female Ebola victim in a specialized treatment center in Kenema (Sierra Leone), July 2014. Reuters/Jo Dunlop/UNICEF/Handout via Reuters

As part of its plans to contain the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone has ordered a countrywide 'lockdown' for three days starting from September 19. 21,000 volunteers wil be mobilized to carry out door-to-door operations to root out hidden Ebola victims. The measure is drastic, and is already being contested.


From September 19, citizens in Sierra Leone will not be allowed to travel or use public transport, in a bid to halt the spread of the Ebola virus, which has already killed more than 2,000 people in West Africa.

Around 1,000 have been infected in Sierra Leone alone, but 70% have refused to seek treatment according to authorities.

The lockdown they say, is designed to force people to come out, by force.


Anyone hiding Ebola victims... will be able to be identified.

So why the three-day window? Freetown argues that three days is the time necessary for the symptoms of Ebola, which include vomitting and diarrhea, to manifest. (Experts say in reality it takes between 2 to 21 days.)

But given the lack of adequate testing equipment, the lockdown will transform the country into a "giant incubator" where those infected will be able to be easily identified, the government claims.

Anyone hiding a Ebola victim will be rooted out by a citizen task force of more than 20,000 volunteers. But just how practical will it be to enforce?

Not very, according to eye-witnesses. Edward Conteh from the War amputee society says many people are unlikely to take the measure seriously.

"When you go to certain places, people tell you Ebola doesn't exist, and besides civil society here is completely disorganized. So when they say, no going out for three days and three nights, it's going to be very difficult to respect."

The move comes as the World Health Organization endorsed the use of blood-derived experimental drugs to treat victims.

Sierra Leone has recorded 491 of the total 2,097 deaths blamed on Ebola in West Africa. The districts hardest hit are Kenema and Kailahun. Kenema is the third largest city in Sierra Leone, while Kailahun is a major regional hub. Both are under quarantine.

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