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Sierra Leone Bans Public Christmas Celebrations

In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, a healthcare worker in protective gear sprays disinfectant around the house of a person suspected to have the Ebola virus in Port Loko Community, situated on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone. (AP

A spokesman for Sierra Leone’s government says banning of all public celebrations during Christmas festivities is part of the administration’s effort to contain the Ebola outbreak.

Abdulai Bayraytay says security agencies including the police and the army will enforce the nationwide ban beginning on December 20.

“Amidst the Ebola virus we are containing, we don’t want to reverse the gains we have been making,” said Bayraytay. “We have already consulted with the experts that we should whip up the campaign of people avoiding body contact as a way of mitigating the further spread and infection of new cases. That is why we have decided as a government that we needed to announce this public measures.”

Bayraytay said the new measure has drawn support from citizens, who are already buying food supplies for the Christmas period.

“When the announcement was made, a lot of people have already started stockpiling food stuff and other essential commodities so that they can avoid the rush come to the few days towards Christmas,” said Bayraytay.

With more than 13-hundred new cases of Ebola, Sierra Leone has passed Liberia to become the country worst affected by the virus in West Africa.

Since the Ebola outbreak is not yet contained, some critics predict the ban on public celebrations of Christmas will be another ineffective measure. They contend the government’s order infringes on Sierra Leone’s constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

Spokesman Bayraytay denied that charge.

“On Christmas day people can still go to the church. We are working with the Inter-religious Council of Sierra Leone so that they can promote best practices that would avoid people interacting unnecessarily,” he said. “The only focus here is we don’t want masquerades, we don’t want those normal festivities as if we are in a normal situation. So far the message has been received very well by the public. We have received a lot of text messages, phone calls commending the government for such a decision.”

Bayraytay says districts including Kono, Port Loko and Tonkolili have begun “clustered quarantining,” on a voluntary basis, to support the government’s efforts to contain Ebola.

“They have decided that effective last week vehicles are not entering or leaving those areas at all,” Bayraytay said. “This is all measures being put to feed into the response of the national Ebola plan of mitigating the spread of the virus through new infections.”

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