Sierra Leone curfew imposed in bid to halt ebola

AUTHORITIES are ordering people in Sierra Leone to stay inside their homes for three days as part of an effort to stop the spread of ebola, which has killed more than 2,000 people across west Africa.

The death toll from the Ebola epidemic has continued to climb. Picture: Getty
The death toll from the Ebola epidemic has continued to climb. Picture: Getty

Government spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay said people are being told to stay inside their homes on from 19 to 21 September. The dates were chosen to give people enough time to stock up on provisions before the ban on movement, he said.

Already though some are questioning whether the measure will help. Médecins Sans Frontières said it “will be extremely difficult for health workers to accurately identify cases through door-to-door screening.”

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Even if suspected cases are identified during the lockdown, the group says Sierra Leone does not have enough beds for them.

“Without a place to take suspected cases – to screen and treat them – the approach cannot work,” the medical group said yesterday.

“It has been our experience that lockdowns and quarantines do not help control ebola as they end up driving people underground and jeopardising the trust between people and health providers. This leads to the concealment of potential cases and ends up spreading the disease further.”

A doctor said on Friday that healthcare in the Sierra Leone capital of Freetown has “crumbled” because many people were terrified to go to hospitals and some doctors are wary of treating those who show up. Speaking at the launch of a public education programme in Freetown, Kwame O’Neil said patients suffering from all kinds of ailments are dying for lack of treatment because of these fears.

One young girl died of appendicitis when, after showing up at a hospital, a doctor there denied he was a doctor and refused to treat her, O’Neil said.