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25.03.2020 Europe

Sierra Leone announces year-long state of emergency despite no confirmed coronavirus

By Daniel Finnan - RFI
© AFP - Kola Sulaimon
LISTEN MAR 25, 2020
© AFP - Kola Sulaimon

Authorities in Sierra Leone on Tuesday declared a 12-month state of emergency to help deal with the spread of the coronavirus. The West African country, which was ravaged during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak, has yet to record a confirmed case of Covid-19, but President Julius Maada Bio said Sierra Leone needed to take "effective measures". 

“The coronavirus disease is a highly infectious disease that constitutes a public emergency of international concern," said Maada Bio during an address on television, highlighting the risk to human life and potential economic disruption. 

Sierra Leone's neighbours Guinea and Liberia have both reported confirmed cases of Covid-19 and Maada Bio had already outlined measures to restrict the spread of the virus as well as provide testing and treatment. 

"This is not a lockdown and nobody must use this as an excuse to hoard goods, hike prices or engage in acts of lawlessness,” said Maada Bio. “This public emergency is not going to make the lives of Sierra Leoneans difficult or unbearable.” 

The city of Freetown is taking precautions against coronavirus including the reduction of hours for market traders and providing handwashing stations for markets, health facilities and schools, the office for Freetown Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr told RFI.

Market opening hours have been adjusted to between 07:00 and 19:00, while handwashing stations and soap have been delivered to 72 health facilities, 18 markets and 222 schools, according to the mayor's office.

The Ebola outbreak left 3,956 people dead in Sierra Leone and the authorities had to put in place a curfew and restrictions on movement, which had a major impact on logistics and food security