Sierra Leone's Ebola lockdown likely to be extended
A three-day lockdown in Sierra Leone aimed at stemming the worst Ebola epidemic on record has identified dozens of new infections, but has not reached everyone in the country and is likely to be extended, a senior official said on Sunday.
Freetown: A three-day lockdown in Sierra Leone aimed at stemming the worst Ebola epidemic on record has identified dozens of new infections, but has not reached everyone in the country and is likely to be extended, a senior official said on Sunday.
In one of the most extreme strategies employed since the epidemic began, Sierra Leone ordered its 6 million residents to stay indoors as volunteers circulated to educate households as well as isolate the sick and remove the dead.
"There is a very strong possibility it will be extended," Stephen Gaojia, head of the Emergency Operations Centre that leads the national Ebola response, told Reuters after meeting with President Ernest Bai Koroma.
"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 said 92 bodies had been recovered across the country by the end of Saturday, the second day of the lockdown.
Some 123 people had contacted authorities during the drive, believing they might be infected. Of these, 56 tested positive for Ebola, 31 tested negative and 36 were still awaiting their results, he said.
Ebola has infected at least 5,357 people in West Africa this year, mainly in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, killing 2,630 of those, according to the World Health Organization. At least 562 have died in Sierra Leone.
The lockdown was intended to allow 30,000 health workers, volunteers and teachers to visit every household in the country.
Some criticised the measure before it began on Friday as a rush to stock up on provisions caused a spike in prices, leaving many of Sierra Leone`s poor unable to buy food.
The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres has also warned that the lockdown could lead people to conceal cases.
Residents have largely complied with the plan, and the streets of the capital have remained mostly deserted, except for ambulances and police vehicles.
A team burying Ebola victims was attacked in Freetown on Saturday, however, as a small group defied the lockdown.
Meanwhile, Spain sent a military plane to Sierra Leone on Sunday to repatriate a Spanish Catholic priest who tested positive for the virus.
Spain`s Health Ministry said that Manuel Garcia Viejo, a member of the Hospital Order of San Juan de Dios, had been working in the western city of Lunsar.
He is the second Spanish priest to be diagnosed with Ebola. Another member of the same order, Miguel Pajares, was died last month after being brought back to Spain from Liberia.
Once in Madrid, Garcia Viejo will be taken to the Carlos III hospital, where Pajares was treated, the ministry said.