Christmas and New Year gatherings have been banned by the government throughout Sierra Leone for fear the Ebola virus will be spread to rural villages as people go home to celebrate.
The edict, which will be enforced by the army, means those who live in the capital, Freetown, will be barred from travelling to join their extended families. The city’s residents account for a third of the country’s population. A “lock-down” is reported to also be happening in nearby Port Loko, which is the other big urban area with soaring cases.
Palo Conteh, the minister of defence who heads the government’s Ebola response unit, said on Friday there would be “no Christmas and New Year celebrations this year. We will ensure that everybody remains at home to reflect on Ebola.
“Military personnel will be on the streets at Christmas and the New Year to stop any street celebrations.”
More than a quarter of the population of Sierra Leone is Christian, although Islam is the dominant religion. Christmas decorations are for sale at the roadside markets and there are Christmas trees in many public buildings. (read more)