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Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

  • Peter Clottey

Police guard a roadblock as Sierra Leone government enforces a three day lock down on movement of all people in an attempt to fight the Ebola virus in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sept. 19, 2014.

Police guard a roadblock as Sierra Leone government enforces a three day lock down on movement of all people in an attempt to fight the Ebola virus in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Sept. 19, 2014.

Sierra Leone has ended a three-day nationwide lockdown aimed at stopping the Ebola outbreak.

The health ministry on Sunday said it had reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes.

The government had ordered Sierra Leone's six million people to stay home Friday, Saturday and Sunday so teams could go door-to-door, trying to locate hidden Ebola patients and educate others on how to avoid the deadly disease.

Officials said the outreach would continue in communities that have been identified as hot spots across the country.

The operation appears to have gone smoothly, except for an incident Saturday when young people attacked workers trying to bury bodies of Ebola victims near the capital, Freetown. The attackers dispersed after reinforcements arrived to protect the burial team.

Operation 'successful'

The head of Sierra Leone's Emergency Operations Center, Stephen Gaojia, said he was pleased with the outcome of the initiative, saying that many people had come forward to get relatives tested and treated.

“The three-day house to house Ebola talk has overall been successful,” said Ngaojia. “The exercise has been able to fast track the response effort ... We have been able to get a lot of people coming forward to actually get their people in different isolation centers and treatment centers.”

Ngaojia hailed the cooperation of citizens in the government’s move to reduce the infection rate, after rejecting media reports that some of the emergency workers were attacked.

“This exercise has actually created an outreach wherein there has been massive awareness in the minds of the majority of Sierra Leoneans,” said Ngaojia. “[They] were very respectful to the teams that went to their homes ... Now, at the family level some discussions have been generated, and at the community level that Ebola is real and is in our communities.”

Ngaojia says members of his team are still gathering information about the performance of the volunteers who went house to house to educate and administer test to people for the disease.

Ebola in numbers

Sierra Leone’s information minister told VOA that current figures show there are 1,400 cases of Ebola in the country. He said the government in Freetown aims to reduce the infection rate.

Ngaojia said the three-day containment measure aims to help efforts to combat the disease.

“This exercise was not to say that it will completely break the chain of transmission in any way by any means. What we have done is to think outside the box,” he said

“If we have been able to get very close to 200 people in different areas who came forward to be tested and maybe 50 percent tested positive in a way that is a huge success story. It is another effort in being actually able to identify some of the people who have been infected ... bring them to holding centers, get them tested and take them to treatment centers within the shortest possible time,” Ngaojia said.

In total, Ebola has infected more than 5,300 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea this year, and killed more than 2,600.

The United States has committed $175 million to help combat the outbreak, and is sending 3,000 troops to the region to build field hospitals and provide logistical aid.

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