The Sierra Leone government has declared a five-day lockdown in the country’s north to step up efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic, while making an exception for Christmas.
The lockdown is designed to intensify the containment of the Ebola virus, the government said on Wednesday.
“Muslims and Christians are not allowed to hold services in mosques and churches throughout the lockdown except for Christians on Christmas Day (Thursday),” Alie Kamara, resident minister for the Northern Region, told the AFP news agency. “We are working to break the chain of transmission.”
Deputy communication minister Theo Nicol said “the lockdown for five days… is meant for us to get an accurate picture of the situation,” adding: “Other districts will carry on with their own individual lockdown after this if they deemed it necessary.”
Sierra Leone has also banned Christmas parties and other festivities nationwide in an effort to stop the epidemic.
Ebola has killed more than 7,500 people, almost all of them in West Africa. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are the three countries worst-hit by the epidemic. Sierra Leone overtook Liberia recently as the country with the highest number of Ebola infections.
Currently, Ebola is spreading fastest in Sierra Leone’s Western Area, which includes the capital of Freetown. It’s believed that more than half of all new cases come from this part of the country, and authorities fear those infected but not yet symptomatic could unwittingly spread it to other parts of the country if people travel to their rural hometowns as is common over the Christmas holidays.
“I know that this is the festive season where Sierra Leoneans often celebrate with families in a flamboyant and joyous manner, but all must be reminded that our country is at war with a vicious enemy that is still taking the lives of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, children and friends,” Koroma said recently.
The president said the state of emergency was still in place, adding “that my government will implement its measures to the letter during this festive season.”