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Ebola Fight: Sierra Leone Begins 3-Day Lockdown

Medic-ALL (19:09:2014)

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — One of the most stringent anti-Ebola measures to date began in Sierra Leone this morning as the country's government imposed a three-day national lockdown, ordering people off the streets and into their homes in an effort to stamp out the deadly disease.

Police officers patrolled the streets of the densely populated capital, telling stragglers to go home and stay indoors. Volunteers in bright jerseys prepared to go house-to-house throughout the country to warn people about Ebola’s dangers and to root out those who might be infected but were staying in hiding.

The normally busy streets of Freetown were empty Friday morning, stores were closed and pedestrians were rare on the main thoroughfares.

The country’s president, justifying the extraordinary move in a radio address Thursday night, suggested that Sierra Leone was engaged in a life-or-death struggle with the disease.

Some of the things we are asking you to do are difficult, but life is better than these difficulties,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said.

More than 200 new cases of Ebola have been reported in Sierra Leone in the past week, according to the World Health Organization, with transmission described as particularly high in the capital; nearly 40 percent of cases in the country were identified in the three weeks preceding Sept. 14; and more than 560 people have died in Sierra Leone, about one-fifth of the total from this outbreak.

The campaign that began here Friday morning reflected the desperation of West African governments — and in particular those of the three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — as they struggle with an epidemic that the health authorities have warned is showing no signs of slowing down.

No country has attempted anything on the scale of what is being tried in Sierra Leone, where more than 20,000 volunteers enlisted to help identify households where the authorities suspect people infected with the Ebola virus are hiding.

Culled: New York Times

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