Sunday marked the last moments of a particularly difficult period for Sierra Leone: the three day lockdown that had citizens anxious and frightened has finally ended. Authorities claim that this measure helped them not only locate scores of bodies that could represent sources of infection for countless people, but also identify dozens of new infections.
Sierra Leone was the only nation to employ such an extreme strategy since the epidemic began in their attempts of stemming the Ebola epidemic. All 6 million residents were ordered to remain indoors for three consecutive days while health workers and volunteers circulated through households. This helped not only to isolate the sick but also to remove the dead.
On Sunday evening, despite the lockdown not having been officially lifted, people emerged from their homes and began singing and dancing in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. Police officers were forced to make several arrests so as to maintain citizens indoors for the last couple of hours until midnight, when the lockdown was scheduled to end.
According to Emergency Operations Centre head, Stephen Gaojia, there were still some areas that hadn’t been reached by government teams on Sunday morning.
“Even though the exercise has been a huge success so far, it has not been concluded in some metropolitan cities like Freetown and Kenema,”, Gaojia told reporters.
By the end of Saturday, 92 bodies had been retrieved across the country according to Gaojia. Additionally, 123 citizens had voluntarily contacted authorities believing they had been infected with the virus. Of these volunteers, 56 citizens tested positive for Ebola, 31 tested negative and 36 still hadn’t received their results.
While the EOC had initially announced Sierra Leone citizens that the campaign might be prolonged in order to reach all interested households, on Sunday evening, they announced that the lockdown would not last longer than Sunday. Gaojia said that its objectives were largely met and as such, an extension was not recommended.
Since the outbreak in West Africa began, more than 2,630 people lost their lives to the hemorrhagic fever virus. A total of 5,357 people were infected since March, especially in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The measure gathered critics before it began on Friday. A spike in prices was caused by the rush to stock up on provisions for the three announced days that had Sierra Leone’s poor wanting to buy food but no longer able to.
Other West African countries are also trying their best to counter the epidemic as best they can. In Monrovia, authorities opened a new 150- bed treatment center on Sunday, in the country that is worst hit by the outbreak.