Sierra Leone declares 12 months state of emergency amidst coronavirus scare

Sierra Leone has declared a 12-month state of emergency as it seeks to insulate itself from the dreaded coronavirus outbreak that has killed thousands and overrun some of the most powerful health systems in Europe.

The country’s President Julius Maada Bio announced on Tuesday on state television that the decision took immediate effect.

“This is not a lockdown and nobody must use this as an excuse to hoard goods, hike prices or engage in acts of lawlessness,” Mr Bio said, taking a cue from a global panic buying as coronavirus sweep through the world.

Although a coronavirus case is yet to be recorded in Sierra Leone, the government’s decision is a proactive measure as memories of the devastating effects of Ebola lingers on in a country that lost over 4,000 citizens and recorded almost 14,000 Ebola infections.

The nation’s $4.1- billion economy is still struggling to recover from the effects of that outbreak.

Taking no chances with the novel coronavirus with the hindsight of the Ebola outbreak, Mr Bio said the rapid spread of coronavirus globally posed risks to human lives and could cause enormous socio-economic disruption in Sierra Leone

“This situation, therefore, requires effective measures to protect, prevent and curtail the spread of the coronavirus in Sierra Leone.

“Therefore, to prevent, curtail and protect the lives of the people, I Julius Maada Bio, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone declares that a state of public emergency in the whole of the country with effect from today” he added.

Before today’s declaration, the country had put in place various mechanism to prevent the spread of the virus which included the suspension of overseas travel by government officials, a ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people, military deployment at airport and land borders, a ban on all sporting events, quarantine for all passengers coming from countries with over 200 cases, and frequent hand washing.

A Japanese family of four was also denied entry into Sierra Leone after authorities were notified that one of them was coughing on board a Kenya Airways flight and appeared symptomatic.

The Transport Ministry also issued a 72-hour notice to all airlines to stop flights to the country, effective 21 March, except emergency medical flights.

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