State House, Freetown, Tuesday 31 March 2020 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has confirmed that Sierra Leone has recorded its first case of the Coronavirus, COVID-19 and announced new measures as part of government’s efforts to fight the virus.
Addressing pressmen and civil society members at State House, the President said they would continue to actively disseminate information through various modes about symptoms of the highly infectious and deadly disease and urged citizens to report themselves, loved ones, community members who showed flu-like symptoms, including fever, dry cough, and difficulty in breathing.
He said that the government had activated the Emergency Operations Centre to Level 2 with all attendant pillars, and pre-positioned testing, isolation, and treatment facilities to care for the sick, adding that in the last few days the government had received additional equipment and supplies. He assured citizens that the healthcare facilities were safe with trained healthcare workers ready to respond to cases.
“Government of Sierra Leone COVID-19 Response Team is now fully activated. We strongly urge citizens to observe all hygiene and social distancing protocols. Hospital is the best and only place where qualified healthcare personnel can offer you comprehensive medical care. Again, immediately report all persons with symptoms – dry cough, fever, and difficulty breathing.
“A number of additional measures are in effect starting today and I strongly urge strong compliance from every citizen. These will affect the transportation sector, traditional practices, religious practices, trading, and entertainment. The National COVID-19 Response secretariat led by Brig (Rtd) Hassan Conteh will announce the full raft of measures immediately,” he said.
The President also reiterated that there was no lockdown noting that the government would respond rapidly to changes in the situation by announcing additional enhanced measures.
The newly appointed interim national coordinator of Government of Sierra Leone COVID-19 Response, following the declaration of a state of public emergency recently, Brigadier (Retired) Kellie Hassan Conteh, said that in due course they would further announce a raft of other measures to reinforce already existing actions, including the use of law enforcement agencies.
Minister of Health and Sanitation, Professor Alpha Tejan Wurie, said the nation was lucky because the index case was taken by his wife from his place of quarantine straight to the hospital where he was tested and proven positive. While he emphasised that they would still need more support, he also assured that the available testing kits were enough to undertake some immediate random testing of all those who might have come in contact with the patient. He added that they had done a lot testing before now.
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