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Interview: Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's three-day Ebola lockdown 'successful'

Photo: Daniel Finnan

Sierra Leone’s three-day Ebola lockdown was effective, Paolo Conteh the head of the country’s National Ebola Response Centre told RFI on Monday. But there could be another lockdown if the deadly haemorrhagic virus spreads again, he admitted. The curfew, from 0600 GMT Friday until 1800 GMT Sunday, aimed to raise Ebola awareness and saw door-to-door checks for sick people. It was Sierra Leone’s third lockdown since the outbreak started in December 2013.


How did the three day lockdown period go?

Initial reports show that it went well, people complied, they stayed at home and we had three-man teams visiting the hotspot districts: the western area which has the capital and then Bombali, Port Loko district and Kambia district. So initial figures show that it went well but we’ll have some facts and figures by tomorrow.

Do you think it is likely that the government will run another lockdown period?

That will depend on how we see the disease spread with the epi[demiology] situation. If there’s vast improvement then we will not advise the president to have another stay at home, but if the situation deteriorates, we’ll have to sit down and plan for another strategy. On the whole, the figures are going down considerably. For example, two weeks ago we only recorded 33 cases, that was for the week commencing on 16 March, ending on the 22 March. The week we’ve just concluded we had roughly about 25 cases. If you put that into perspective, we used to have over 500 cases per week and now we are in the mid-20s. So we’re doing well, we’re winning but the fight’s not yet over.

There have been some concerns about people being able to access food during these lockdown periods.

I wouldn’t say so because for the slum areas, the beggars, the street children, they are provided for by international partners and also the government made provisions for them.

Dossier: Ebola outbreak 2014

There was a slight hiccup in one of the distribution centres, Devil Hole. But all the others went on well and all the beggars and street children were all fed for the last three days.

The hiccup you mention in Devil Hole, one of the areas just outside of Freetown, we understand that police fired teargas on the residents because they were unable to get enough food at the food collection point.

Well, you know, it’s free food and the numbers were just becoming uncontrollable, so I think the police had to take appropriate action. I haven’t seen the reports yet because I was upcountry visiting the hotspots districts, I’m still waiting for the reports to come in.

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