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06.04.2020 Europe

Sierra Leone under 72-hour lockdown after 6th Covid-19 case reported

By Kelvin Lewis in Freetown - RFI
© Kelvin Lewis
LISTEN APR 6, 2020
© Kelvin Lewis

Sierra Leone on Sunday began a three-day lockdown to stem the spread of coronavirus, after two new cases of infection were reported. The country has now confirmed six cases, all within five days, with the latest reportedly from a Sierra Leonean and an Italian who returned from abroad on 16 March.

National Covid-19 coordinator, retired Brigadier Kellie Conteh said the first priority during the short lockdown, was to locate all of the contacts they have identified, in order to isolate and monitor them.

The next priority: to identify all the secondary contacts and also place them under surveillance.

The Sierra Leonean authorities aim to improve quarantine conditions and tighten security, after reports of people leaving isolation areas.

Conteh said they would also provide better communication and reassure the public with daily updates.

Rush on businesses, banks

There was brisk business on Sunday, the day before the implementation of the lockdown, with banks and market places overflowing with people. Although the coronavirus has threatened many businesses with closure, it brought with it a spike in trade in veronica buckets.

Price gouging saw at least a 20 percent hike in the cost of the buckets, which are equipped with a tap at the bottom.

Freetown City Council has ordered that all businesses, offices and markets have veronica buckets at their entrance to promote hand washing.

Other people were more inventive and quickly created face masks with fashionable African print materials. This, after the pharmacies ran out of standard surgical protection.

Freetown was clear on Sunday as most people complied with the decree to stay home.

However, there were reports that most patients at the main referral centre – the Connaught Hospital – had voluntarily discharged themselves amid fears they would be mixed with coronavirus patients during the lockdown.

The hospital wards were almost empty but the authorities refused to comment on why. A male nurse speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed that over the past ten days patients had been reluctant to be admitted, except those who were critically ill.

Sick children have been turned away from the Ola During Children's hospital since the 100-strong staff went into self-isolation, following a second doctor testing positive.

National Coordinator Kellie Conteh urged citizens to comply with the lockdown, saying: “We are all in this together.”

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