If I had the powers to influence H.E the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma to do so, I would have long convinced him against endorsing the mooted 3-day proposed lock down for between 18th and 21st September. I say mooted because Unisa Sesay, a State House Communications Unit authority confirmed in a recent SLBC/TV programme that an executive endorsement is still awaited. My outright aversion stems from a premonition that should a referendum on the matter be conducted today, the returns would be a resounding “NO” vote possibly of up to 90% rejection by the electorate for the following six (6) cogent reasons-:1. Even at the height of our unpreparedness and ignorance for and about the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), through its initial decimating impact on rural citizens which caused the international community to attribute the worst of superlatives on our healthcare delivery infrastructure such as “pathetic” and “worrisome and terrible”, we did not lock down for three (3) days. We did for a day, but as a nation prone to applying fire fighting techniques to issues for which early warning signs had long manifested themselves and/or averse to collating and leveraging from useful statistics, we failed to quantify and publicize the benefits of that single-day lockdown, so as to be able to convince the citizenry that yet another longer one would add value to the fight against the disease. So people are still asking, was the last lock down necessary? Truth be told, a heightened of awareness about the virus, combined with heightened senses of personal hygiene has significantly reduced new cases country wide. And that should not be abated.
2. In the last couple of weeks, politicians across the board went into frenzy against foreigners for withdrawing or winding down their investments, through shrinking operations including closures by tour operators and virtually locking Sierra Leone out as if a pariah country and not responding much earlier to our predicament.
3. Now even as the government has intensified its efforts to awaken and attract international interest and assistance through strengthening capacities particularly in our medical field to wit: (a) acquiring real time Ebola laboratory testing sites including mobile facilities that could cover several axis in a week, and more efficiently than hundreds of foot soldiers moving from house to house sniffing EVD victims (b) additional treatment centers district wide, and in a manner that would rebuild operational confidence and further influence the return boost of our economy. We are planning to “voluntarily lock ourselves in”. Quite honestly I am having difficulty understanding this recent euphoric relish for our “voluntary incubation” ” or why it is now that we want to “cut our own noses and spite ourselves” economically additionally.
4. As I understand it, a 7000-strong work force is being assembled to undertake house to house EVD suspect identification. How and when each of them was tested to confirm their own negative status before recruiting them to inspect our addresses is another matter altogether.
5. From local news reports and analysis, it would appear that the proposed lock down commencement date 18th September has been synchronized with the operational dates of the new facilities acquired and amassed in the fight against the EVD. Would it not have been logical then to immediately test their operational strengths than wait until after the 21st and confront them with a deluge of accumulated cases?
6. From universal electronic media coverage over the week end, this proposal seemingly urging the government to lock down Sierra Leone for three days (Sept 18th 21st) even as others have left the safety and security of the domiciled countries to factor us into their very busy schedules and to come from far and wide to make tremendous sacrifices on our behalf, is being most unfavourably received the international community and aid organisations, especially WHO and MSF.
7. In the “Krio” lingua it is tantamount to : “Dem popo we; don we dae complain say di road far; en say dem hade dae smell?”. Literally interpreted, it means-: “They allowed us to piggy-back them, and we are complaining about distance and that their head stinks?”
8. In the battle against this scourge, a lock down is always deemed counter-productive.
9. According to Dr. Muyembe, the Director of the National Institute for Biomedical Research in Kinshasa, Republic of Congo and who is also assisting in neighbouring Liberia and I quote-: “Quarantining worsens the spread of Ebola…….and it is not a good strategy”. International experts too are in agreement with Dr. Muyembe and are worried that desperation of the majority poor to eke their living and access sustenance could antagonize citizens whose co-operation the government so desperately needs to stop the EVD
But again even if at this stage, as the idea is only being mooted, it isn’t out of place to urge the government for a re-think, even if they are already disposed to sanctioning it. With the disappearance of our initial unpreparedness, fears, misgivings and ignorance about the EVD, the days of lock downs are gone. Hopefully forever! Now is the time to robustly confront the disease with the scientific advantages at our disposal and as directed by our international partners. Otherwise, come 19th to 21st Sept, those whom we invited to help us out will be laboring on, whilst we who need their help most, would be unproductively rested at home.
By: Winstanley R.Bankole Johnson
Tuesday September 09, 2014