Sierra Leone Plans Ebola Lockdown, Experts Warn Of Repercussions

Sierra Leone is planning a three-day nationwide lockdown against Ebola, though leading medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, warned would not help.

During the lockdown, residents will not be allowed to leave their homes. It is a predominantly social campaign, rather than a medical one where volunteers go door-to-door to talk to people.

Alhaji Alpha Kanu, Sierra Leone’s minister of information and communication, told CNN, “We believe this is the best way for now to identify those who are sick and remove them from those who are well.”

MIS cautioned that the Sierra Leone Ebola lockdown is unlikely to stop the spread of the deadly disease. The charity group explained in a statement:

“Large scale coercive measures like forced quarantines and lockdowns are driving people underground and jeopardizing the trust between people and health providers. This is leading to the concealment of cases and is pushing the sick away from health systems.”

However, The Guardian reports that Sierra Leone officials remain convinced a nationwide lockdown will help identify and isolate cases, thereby preventing the disease from spreading further. Ben Kargbo, a presidential adviser on the country’s Ebola task force, explained that the approach “is necessary to deal with the spread of Ebola once and for all.”

A MSF spokesperson contended that the spread of the virus could be controlled better with more specialist care beds. She explained, “What Sierra Leone and Liberia both urgently need are more beds in case management centers, and they need them now.”

Liberia already attempted a quarantine of a neighborhood in Monrovia, the capital. The attempted quarantine resulted in riots in one of the poorest areas of the capital.

Dr. Mohamed Yilla, an obstetrician in Freetown, believes the lockdown is a good thing, but it will be hard to enforce. He explained, “If it is handled properly and we get it right, it will yield some significant results.” He added that the Ebola outbreak is spreading because infected people are hiding rather than going to the hospital for treatment.

The lack of trust in hospitals and doctors is also making the outbreak spread. More than 3,685 people have been infected with the Ebola virus in west Africa since the outbreak began in March. Of those, more than 1,841 have died. Cases have been confirmed in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria.

During Sierra Leone’s Ebola lockdown, 21,000 volunteers will go door-to-door to talk with people about how to protect themselves from the disease. They will also work to identify Ebola cases.

[Image: NBC News]