Umaru Fofana is in the Sierra Leone capital, Freetown
Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma has widened a quarantine to include another one million people in an attempt to curb the spread of Ebola.
The northern districts of Port Loko and Bombali, and Moyamba in the south, will in effect be sealed off immediately.
Nearly 600 people have died of the virus in Sierra Leone and two eastern districts have been isolated since the beginning of August.
The move follows a three-day nationwide lockdown that ended on Sunday night.
New figures released by the UN World Health Organization show that 2,917 people have died in the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa, with Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea worst affected.
Two eastern districts have already been isolated and the extension of the indefinite quarantine means more than a third of Sierra Leone’s 6.1 million population now finds itself unable to move freely.
During Sierra Leone’s three-day curfew, more than a million households were surveyed and 130 new cases discovered, the authorities say.
President Koroma said the move had been a success but had exposed “areas of greater challenges”, which was why other areas were being quarantined.
Only people delivering essential services can enter and circulate within areas under quarantine.
- Liberia with a 4.2m population: 51 doctors; 978 nurses and midwives; 269 pharmacists
- Sierra Leone with a 6m population: 136 doctors; 1,017 nurses and midwives; 114 pharmacists
In a televised address, the president acknowledged that the isolation would “pose great difficulties” for people.
“[But] the life of everyone and the survival of our country take precedence over these difficulties,” he said.
According to WHO, the situation nationally in Sierra Leone continues to deteriorate with a sharp increase in the number of newly reported cases in the capital, Freetown, and its neighbouring districts of Port Loko, Bombali, and Moyamba, which are now under quarantine.
|Country||Existing bed capacity||Newly funded beds||Extra beds required|
|SOURCE: WHO, 24 SEPTEMBER 2014|
Despite efforts to deploy more health workers and open new Ebola treatment centres in the worst-affected countries, there was still a significant lack of beds in Sierra Leone and Liberia, with more than 2,000 needed, WHO said.
The situation in Guinea appeared to be stabilising, with up to 100 new confirmed cases reported in each of the past five weeks, but it was still of grave concern, it said.
Ebola virus disease (EVD)
- Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
- Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
- Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
- Incubation period is two to 21 days
- There is no proven vaccine or cure
- Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
- Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’s natural host