Dr. Blyden speaks on the need for government to end Covid-19 State of Emergency
The Centre for Decease Control (CDC) has listed Sierra Leone as one of only four countries in Africa, including Benin, Ivory Coast, and Rwanda, where travel and health risk due to Covid -19 is rated as low.
The four new COVID-19 levels and travel advice issued by the CDC are: Level 1 (low) indicating travellers should practice enhanced precautions; Level 2 (moderate) advising travellers at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 to avoid all nonessential travel; Level 3 (high) advising all travellers to avoid all nonessential travel; and Level 4 (very high), advising to avoid all travel.
This really is great news for Sierra Leone whose economy, especially its tourism sector has suffered immensely from the Covid-19 pandemic. The economy has shrunk by over forty-percent since the start of the pandemic in March, although most of that fall could have been avoided by the government with better and more effective economic policies in place.
With this welcoming news from the CDC, Sierra Leoneans are hoping that the low Covid infection and transmission rates will continue, as the rest of the World look to come out of the pandemic in the New Year, after promising results from vaccine trials.
Sierra Leones development has been stifled by the damaging effects of a ten-year rebel war, and a crushing blow from an Ebola epidemic. Now it seems, Sierra Leoneans are weathering the global storm of Covid-19 far better than most countries of the world.
But even as the low number of COVID-19 cases in Sierra Leone are being recognised by the CDC, there are calls for the government to end its controversial State of Emergency that was declared by president Bio in March this year, which many believe is having huge and damaging impact on civil liberty and human rights.
Today, Sierra Leone’s opposition politician Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden has called for an immediate lifting of the State of Emergency laws.
When president Bio controversially declared a State of Emergency amid much political uproar, little was known about the Covid-19 virus around the world, yet the numbers of Covid cases and deaths in the country have remained relatively low, as most countries put strict measures in place to stem the alarming rise in the number of infections and deaths.
Today the total accumulated number of reported Covid-19 cases in Sierra Leone stands at 2,408, and 74 deaths.
With these relatively low figures, many in Sierra Leone are now saying to the government that the country no longer needs a State of Emergency, which critics say is being used by the government to stifle democratic freedoms and civil liberty.
Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, a popular opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) party politician, who supported the introduction of the State of Emergency laws is now calling on the government to immediately bring those laws to an end.
I was one person who had strongly supported the State of Emergency because of the terrible scenes of deaths which I had seen from more medically advanced Western countries like Italy and cities like New York. I supported because I had seen thousands of people dying from the virus on a weekly basis out in the West, Dr. Blyden told reporters in Freetown.
But now she says “I believe that there is no more need for a State of Emergency in Sierra Leone as all the required Regulations needed to combat this particular virus outbreak are contained within the Public Health Ordinance Act No. 23 of 1960. This outbreak no longer needs direct Presidential attention like it did when we never knew much about it. The management of the Covid-19 outbreak should be downgraded to one for Health Ministry and medical practitioners under the said 1960 Ordinance.”
Dr. Blyden explains that: Parliament needs to pass a statutory instrument that adds Covid-19 Coronavirus to the current list of notifiable diseases using Section 37 of the 1960 Ordinance. That is all that’s needed to give Special Powers to the Government to combat the Covid-19 outbreak. Then the President can immediately lift the State of Emergency.
Dr. Blyden, who was herself a recent victim of a twenty-two days unlawful detention by the State plus a further court-ordered detention of 29 days, says she is concerned over recent news reports of arbitrary detentions of other citizens by the Sierra Leone Police.
She however acknowledges that not a single Detention Order has been actually signed by President Bio to detain anyone.
As far as unlawful detentions go, President Bio has not abused his emergency powers. However, it is getting quite worrisome as the Police are under the false impression that a State of Emergency means they can arbitrarily detain citizens even without a signed Order by the President. That is not what the Constitution says. We are a democracy and so we should return our country back to normal by ending the State of Emergency which has really outlived its usefulness.
Dr. Blyden however cautioned against actions that may go against any of the country’s public order laws. She said she will not support any civil demonstration which seeks to create chaos or disrupt the peace and stability of the country.
I am calling for an immediate lifting of the State of Emergency so as to ensure we can all enjoy our democratic rights and freedoms and also grow our Economy. I am certainly not calling for the SOE to be lifted to enable any unlawful activity, Dr. Sylvia Blyden told reporters.
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