Sunday 26 May 2019

Ebola lockdown uncovers 150 new victims in Sierra Leone

Health workers load Spanish Ebola patient, Catholic priest Manuel Garcia Viejo, into an ambulance on the tarmac of Torrejon airbase after he was repatriated from Sierra Leone for treatment in Spain. Reuters
Health workers load Spanish Ebola patient, Catholic priest Manuel Garcia Viejo, into an ambulance on the tarmac of Torrejon airbase after he was repatriated from Sierra Leone for treatment in Spain. Reuters

Carla De Raphael

THE controversial Ebola lockdown in Sierra Leone has uncovered some 150 new cases of the deadly virus as well as discovering around 70 bodies previously unaccounted for.

Most of the west African country's six million people were confined to their homes for 72 hours from last Friday, as 30,000 volunteers went from door-to-door to educate residents on preventing the spread of the deadly epidemic.

"We have an overflow of bodies which we still need to bury but this has been an everyday occurrence since the Ebola outbreak . . . Now, at least, we have about 150 new cases," Steven Gaojia, head of the country's emergency operation centre, said yesterday.

The country's chief medical officer earlier said up to 70 bodies had been uncovered, but these were in and around the capital, and results for the whole country are likely to push up the figures significantly.

Health Minister Abubakarr Fofanah said volunteers had managed to reach around 80pc of homes, deeming the action a success.

"We have learnt a lot from the campaign. Although this campaign has ended, there is a possibility we would have a similar one some other time," he said.

"I cannot, as of now, give you statistics about the total corpses collected during the three-day period as we are now awaiting returns from other parts of the country and this will be made known as soon as the full report is compiled."

Mr Fofanah said one of the successes of the action was to cut down on "night burials" - funeral services held within families trying to conceal the fact that there had been an Ebola patient in the household.

Meanwhile, independent health advisers to the World Health Organisation (WHO) have assessed that there should be no general ban on travel or trade with countries reeling from an Ebola epidemic in West Africa.


Some airlines have stopped flights to affected areas and WHO has said this has hampered aid efforts and the ability of experts to reach victims of the world's worst ever Ebola outbreak.

In a statement issued after the Emergency Committee held its second meeting last week, WHO said Ebola had now killed at least 2,793 people in five countries and remains a "public health emergency of international concern".

"Flight cancellations and other travel restrictions continue to isolate affected countries, resulting in detrimental economic consequences, and hinder relief and response efforts risking further international spread," the statement said. "The committee strongly reiterated that there should be no general ban on international travel or trade.

"States should ensure that they are proportionate and evidence-based and that accurate information, essential services and commodities, including food and water, are provided to the affected populations."

There is still ongoing burial rites - rituals that citizens are carrying out. They're in the habit of bathing dead bodies because tradition demands it. WHO advisers earlier recommended the screening of travellers departing Ebola-affected countries from airports and ports.

In Nigeria, thousands of students were preparing to return to school yesterday after an enforced summer break because of Ebola, which has claimed eight lives there.

The country's largest city, Lagos, however, said primary and secondary schools would not reopen until October 8, to allow extra time to distribute hygiene and other preventive material to the schools.

Meanwhile, a Catholic missionary infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone - the second Spanish national to be infected - was returned overnight in a military plane to Madrid, where he was admitted to hospital.

Manuel Garcia Viejo (69) is a member of the Hospitaller Order of St John of God.

Irish Independent

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