The entire population of about six million people of Sierra Leone have been ordered to stay at home as a three-day lockdown went into effect Friday morning at 6 a.m. (0600 GMT). Authorities are using lockdown as a final push to end the Ebola outbreak and curb any further infections.
Sierra Leone was the worst affected country with the highest number of Ebola infections. Except for two hours on Friday for Muslim prayers and five hours on Sunday for Christian services everyone has been asked to stay in their homes until Sunday evening.
“We understand that people are tired and want to get back to their normal life, but we’re not there yet. It’s the final meters in the race,”
said Roeland Monasch of UNICEF.
Thousands of volunteers spread across the country and hundreds in the capital city of Freetown, one of the last remaining Ebola hotspots, to look for hidden and unconfirmed Ebola infections. Similar how it was done during the last lockdown, teams of volunteers are knocking on doors to remind people how Ebola is spread and how to prevent it.
Sierra Leone had almost 12,000 cases of infections and more than 3,700 dead, the country has seen the largest number of people infected and the second largest number of deaths from Ebola,as the numbers from the World Health Organization show.
Alfred Palo Conteh, the head of Sierra Leone’s Ebola response, said a major goal is to fight complacency as the number of infected cases are declining after more than a year the outbreak was declared in West Africa.
Soldiers and police are on patrol to ensure that only journalists and health teams with authorization are on the streets.
Case numbers in the slums around the capital city Freetown, among the hardest-hit areas, have fallen from a high of over 500 per week in December to 33 during the week ending on March 22nd. The lockdown is meant to encourage preventive action by remind people about the importance of correct hygiene, sanitization and how to protect themselves against a virus that is still a real threat.
“There have been reports of complacency with hand-washing and temperature checks, and this is an opportunity to up the sensitization and to be more proactive looking for cases,”
said John Fleming, Red Cross emergency health coordinator.
Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have set a target of having no new cases by the middle of next month to finally end the Ebola outbreak that started over a year ago.