Thousands Evade Ebola Lockdown In Sierra Leone, Enter Guinea Without Going Through Health Controls

With the Ebola outbreak increasing at significant rates in Sierra Leone, government officials have taken drastic measures. Today marks the start of the government’s controversial lockdown that was issued in an attempt to slow the spread of the Ebola virus.

There have been 5,335 people infected with Ebola so far during the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, 1,673 are in Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization. That number jumped by more than 200 in just one week, prompting Sierra Leone officials to order the country’s 6 million residents to stay home for three days. No one is allowed outside without a government-issued pass. Only law enforcement personnel, security officials, and “essential” government workers are allowed in the Sierra Leone streets during the three-day lockdown, the Washington Post reports.

During the lockdown, government officials will be making the rounds to houses to provide education on the deadly Ebola virus. However, the searches are also to find Ebola-stricken people who may be in hiding. The Washington Post also reports that the officials will also be searching for corpses of deceased Ebola victims that may not have been accounted for previously.

Though the government mandated that all Sierra Leone residents stay put, according to EuroNews, thousands have fled to nearby Guinea to avoid the lockdown. Health officials in Guinea said people were coming “in waves” through the bush, fearing they would be taken away if they were found to have the disease. The spread of the disease is serious, and now Guinea is dealing with an influx of possibly Ebola-infected people across their borders.

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the outbreak on Friday.

“As each day passes, more people die, many more are infected, and the demands of response and containment become exponentially greater. To get the crisis under control, all of us will have to work in unorthodox ways, break through barriers, and leverage the best that each of us can bring to bear. Speed is of the essence.”

After the lockdown, many are worried about the state of the poor in the area. Critics fear the lockdown will have a severe impact on the welfare of the country’s poor. Isha Turay, who sells vegetables in Freetown, told Reuters that the three-day break in business would be devastating.

“If we don’t sell, we cannot eat. We don’t know how we can survive in this lockdown. More suffering.”

U.S. troops are arriving this weekend to set up a command center to help deal with the Ebola outbreak. Likewise, the EU has pledged more funds to help the country combat the disease.

The Ebola lockdown isn’t the first drastic measure taken in the area. Guinea shut its borders with West Africa in a bid to halt the Ebola spread earlier this year.

The Ebola lockdown is the first of its kind during this outbreak, but officials in the area are hoping it will help curb the spike in cases being seen across the country. What do you think? Will the Ebola lockdown help or harm the community?