Sierra Leone has imposed new curfews in two northern districts after a spike in new Ebola cases to the highest level in months, President Ernest Bai Koroma has said. “I have instructed the security to institute chiefdom-level curfew and restriction on movement from 6pm to 6am in Kambia and Port Loko districts, with immediate effect,” Koroma said in a televised address on Friday.
Offenders will be detained and prosecuted if they violate the new measures, which will be in effect for the next 21 days. The two districts lie on the route between the capital Freetown and the Guinea border and have been the focus of recent cases.
The 18-month-long Ebola epidemic has killed more than 11,100 people in West Africa, although weekly numbers of new cases have fallen sharply from last year’s peaks. One of the three worst-affected countries, Liberia, was declared Ebola-free in May.
Sierra Leone and Guinea, however, are still regularly reporting several new cases daily, prompting both to extend emergency measures. Health workers say access is difficult in the maze of islands and creeks in the region, where dirt paths are often flooded in the current wet season.
Some residents are not complying with anti-Ebola measures and more than a dozen Ebola contacts have escaped quarantine, according to a report by the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) in May. “There will be night patrols, so the idea is to stop people from escaping using vehicles. If they run away on foot they can only get so far,” said OB Sisay, a NERC official involved in “Operation Northern Push” for Port Loko and Kambia.