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Sierra Leone declares Ebola national emergency

In an attempt to stem the spread of Ebola, Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma has declared a public health emergency and established a presidential task force.

By JC Finley
Sierra Leone declares Ebola national emergency
Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma speaks at the 65th United Nations General Assembly in the UN building in New York City on September 23, 2010. (UPI/John Angelillo) | License Photo

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone, July 31 (UPI) -- On Wednesday, Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma declared the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus a public health emergency.

In a public statement, the president acknowledged, "The disease is beyond the scope of any one country, or community to defeat. Its social, economic, psychological and security implications require scaling up measures at international, national, inter-agency and community levels."

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"The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) poses an extra-ordinary challenge to our nation. Consequently, and in line with the Constitution of Sierra Leone Act Number 6 of 1991, I hereby proclaim a State of Public Emergency to enable us take a more robust approach to deal with the Ebola outbreak."

Sierra Leone is among three West African nations most affected by the Ebola outbreak. Guinea and Liberia are also grappling with the deadly virus. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization established a coordination center in Guinea's capital, Conakry, to assist with resource mobilization to the infected areas.

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As of July 31, WHO reported a total of 729 deaths and 1,323 cases from confirmed, probable and suspected Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Of those, 533 cases and 233 deaths were reported in Sierra Leone.

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The president of Sierra Leone said he would travel Friday to Conakry to meet with leaders to discuss their coordinated response to the outbreak.

He also announced the establishment of a Presidential Task Force on Ebola to implement the following actions for a period of 60 to 90 days:

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-- All epicenters of the disease will be quarantined;

-- Police and the military will give support to health officers and NGOs to do their work unhindered and restrict movements to and from epicenters;

-- Localities and homes where the disease is identified will be quarantined until cleared by medical teams;

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-- Public meetings and gatherings will be restricted with the exception of essential meetings related to Ebola sensitization and education;

-- Active surveillance and house-to-house searches shall be conducted to trace and quarantine Ebola victims and suspects;

-- Parliament is recalled to promote MPs leadership at constituency levels;

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-- Paramount chiefs are required to establish by-laws that would complement other efforts to deal with the Ebola outbreak;

-- Mayors, chairmen of councils and councilors are hereby required to support Ebola control measures in their local government areas;

-- All deaths must be reported authorities before burial;

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-- New protocols for arriving and departing passengers have been instituted at the Lungi International Airport;

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-- All foreign trips by ministers and other government officials will be cancelled except absolutely essential engagements.

August 4, he said, has been declared a "National Stay at Home Day for Family Reflection, Education and Prayers on the Ebola outbreak."

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The Ebola virus is spread by close contact and typically kills up to 90 percent of its victims. There is no known cure or antivirus.

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