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Sierra Leone divided on reinstated Ebola measures

The measures include limits to the number of passengers that would be allowed into public transport.

Sierra Leone divided on reinstated Ebola measures

By Mustapha Dumbuya


Sierra Leoneans expressed mixed reactions on Saturday over a new decision by President Ernest Bai Koroma to reintroduce measures with the aim of curbing the deadly Ebola virus.

The measures include limits to the number of passengers that would be allowed into public transport.

Some of the residents of Sierra Leonean capital Freetown said the government had hastily relaxed Ebola-related emergency measures, even as the World Health Organization had not declared the country Ebola-free.

"The decision to lift the ban on passenger numbers was hasty and untimely," Ibrahim Johnson, a civil servant, told The Anadolu Agency.

"Even though the downward trend of the virus was a bit encouraging, the government should have only lifted the ban when we had started registering zero cases," he added.

He said the government should also learn to be certain of the facts surrounding certain decisions before making these decision.

He noted that the new decisions should have been introduced earlier.

"In any case, since the government has realized its mistakes, we do hope things change for the better," Johnson said.

Charles Sesay, a student at the university of Sierra Leone, echoed Johnson's views.

"The measures are in place given the fact that Ebola is still with us and these same measures have helped in no small way to reduce the infection rate in the recent past," Sesay told AA.

Sesay believes, however, that the government had not been making informed decisions to effectively tackle the Ebola virus.

"The re-application of these measures means that some of the authorities, particularly the president, on whom the burden lies, sometimes come short of making correct decisions," he said.

Mohamed Jalloh, a seasoned educationist, meanwhile, commended President Koroma for reinstating the ban on passenger capacity in public transport and for taking measures to monitor maritime transport in the country.

He, however, said the government needed to revisit its decision to reopen schools across Sierra Leone.

"We should have looked at the reopening of schools again to either shift it or make a statement that if the trend continues schools will not reopen on scheduled dates," Jalloh said. "Already, the apprehension of parents is heightened," he added.

Another Freetown resident, Fatmata Kamara, blamed the authorities for the resurgence of Ebola across the country, saying that Sierra Leone witnessed a decline in Ebola cases before the President lifted a ban that seemed to bring the virus under control.

"Why were the restrictions lifted in the first place? You have not won the battle and you destroy your weapon while you’re still in the battlefield. This is a case of complacency from the top," Fatmata said.

On a Friday visit to one of the communities on the outskirts of Freetown, President Koroma defended his decision to relax some of the measures meant to fight Ebola.

He said his government had decided to lift some of the restrictions, especially on movement and trade, to ease people’s constraints since the country had witnessed a decline in infection rates.

The President said, however, that he realized that people had taken the lifting of the ban for granted, thereby becoming complacent in the fight against Ebola.

"The government has noticed with grave concern that the downward trend in confirmed Ebola cases experienced at the start of 2015 has recently been interrupted by clusters of new cases across the country"  the President's office said in a statement.

The government blamed most new infections on maritime activities, as most people travel to Freetown through sea from Port Loko in northern Sierra Leone, which has been an Ebola hotspot. 

Recently, an incident at the Aberdeen Community left 1,000 people quarantined after a fisherman, who travelled to one of the coastal areas, returned to Freetown infected with Ebola and passed it to other members of the community.

In response, the government decided to reinstate the lifted ban and announced several other measures to complement those already in force.

"Until the outbreak is contained, restrictions are hereby imposed as follows: no commercial vehicle should off-load wares in western area markets between 5:00 pm and 5:00 am; no boats should take off to sea or land anywhere throughout the country between 6:00 pm and 7:00 am," President Korom said.

He added that the country's naval forces would patrol the coast to ensure compliance, adding that coastal communities would be engaged to ensure that there is community ownership in combating the Ebola disease.

The President said that the government was reverting to previous regulations on public transport.

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