Sierra Leone Government Heightens Precautionary Measures
The Government has in the last few days issued a raft of “Corona Enhanced Measures” to prepare for any case of infection. It could be recalled that the nation recovered from a disturbing 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak with 14,124 infections and 3,956 confirmed deaths.
The measures include 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 was recently denied entry into Sierra Leone after authorities were notified that one of them was coughing on board a Kenya Airways flight and appeared symptomatic.
Airlines have been notified to stop flights to the country, effective 21 March, except emergency medical flights.
Prof. Alpha Wurie, the Minister of Health stated recently: “There is vigilance but not fear.”
The Minster noted that before the Covid-19 outbreak, Sierra Leone was one of only two countries in Africa with facilities to test for the virus: a P3-Lab built by the Chinese during the Ebola outbreak.
He revealed that 3 testing sites have been set up with the capacity to do 40 tests a day and a well-equipped, 30-bed isolation unit at the 34 Military Hospital. If need be, Wurie said, a 100-bed isolation centre can be quickly set up at the China Friendship Hospital in Jui.
Chinese Ambassador Hu Zhangliang announced that Beijing was donating 1,000 testing kits, 1,000 surgical masks, 1,000 medical gloves, 500 N95 respirators, 500 sets of protective gowns, 200 medical goggles, and a 50kva generator.
Jacob Saffa , the Minister of Finance stated that economic growth would drop to 3.8 percent – down from forecasts of 5.1 percent. The effects will be wide-reaching with job cuts already seen in the tourism industry.
Saffa said Sierra Leone has sufficient reserves of imports that could sustain the country for 100 days without any support. He further stated that authorities are in discussions with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to see what relief was available to them.
The Finance Minister furthered that they will be looking at tax breaks, tax deferments and other measures to help businesses survive.
During a State House Press Conference, President Bio told journalists: “At this time we do not see reason for panic or lock down. But things can change very fast and we will respond to these rapid changes robustly, up to declaring a state of emergency, to protect public health and safety.”
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