New Ebola outbreak results in another lockdown

In an attempt to control another outbreak, authorities in Sierra Leone are enforcing three-day lock down.

The lock down, which began today, is ordering everyone to stay home to avoid further spread of the disease. Exceptions for the lock down include two hours for Muslim prayers on Friday and a five-hour span on Sunday for Christians.

According to WHO figures, the lock down is intended to help curb the dozens of cases still being reported in Sierra Leone each week. Last week, however, World Health Organization confirmed 33 new cases, the lowest number since June 2014.

The three worst-hit countries with Ebola – Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – have seen a reduction in infection numbers over the past few weeks. But the government warns that decreasing numbers increases the danger of growing complacency.

The nationwide lock down was needed because “complacency has set in – people seemed to relax”, the spokesperson for Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Centre, Sidi Yahya Tunis, told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

“We want to re-energize people’s commitment to the fight against Ebola,” he said.

Local volunteers are making door-to-door visits looking for people who have signs of the Ebola disease while reminding others to stay safe. The government is also having volunteers remind people that the virus remains a threat.

Volunteers are focusing many of their efforts on western and northern areas where a surprise number of infections have been detected. Last week, 16 percent of new Ebola cases were from new areas.

This is the second time Sierra Leone residents – a population of six million — have been in a forced lock down. The first national lock down in September received wide criticism, especially from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), who said the lock down merely forced many underground which would not help contain the virus.

More than 10,000 people in three countries have died from Ebola in the past year.