Ebola-hit Sierra Leone now declares ‘health emergency’

Ebola-hit Sierra Leone now  declares ‘health emergency’
The impoverished country, along with neighbouring Guinea and Liberia, is struggling to contain an epidemic that has infected 1,200 people and left 672 dead across the region since the start of the year.

‘Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary measures.

The Ebola virus disease poses an extraordinary challenge to our nation,’ Koroma said in a televised address to the nation.

‘Consequently... I hereby proclaim a state of public emergency to enable us to take a more robust approach to deal with the Ebola outbreak.’

Koroma said he had cancelled a trip to a summit of around 50 African leaders in Washington DC next week. He announced however that he would travel to neighbouring Guinea for a regional summit on the crisis gathering the heads of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast.

Koroma announced a raft of measures as part of the state of emergency, including quarantining Ebola-hit areas and deploying security forces to protect medical workers.

He banned all public meetings not related to Ebola and cancelled foreign trips by ministers and other government officials, exempting only ‘absolutely essential engagements’.

The president said the measures would be in place initially for 60 to 90 days, and then be reassessed.

Sierra Leone, which has seen 224 deaths, was also preparing to bury Omar Khan, a ‘national hero’ who saved the lives of more than 100 Ebola patients before succumbing to the tropical bug.

Fears that the outbreak could spread to other continents have been growing with European and Asian countries on alert. Leading medical charity Doctors Without Borders warned the crisis would only get worse and said there was no overarching strategy to handle the world’s worst-ever outbreak of the disease.

Sierra Leone’s announcement comes a day after Liberia, which has seen 129 deaths, said it was shutting all schools and placing ‘non-essential’ government workers on 30 days’ leave. US Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse said it was temporarily withdrawing its non-essential staff from Liberia, citing regional ‘instability and ongoing security issues’.


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