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Sierra Leone Pleased by Cooperation on Christmas Policy

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 Sierra Leone government spokesman says Freetown is pleased with the cooperation of citizens after a ban on all public celebrations during Christmas began in a bid to contain Ebola.

The police, army and other security agencies have been deployed to enforce the nationwide policy.

“So far we are very satisfied in the sense [that] we are having absolute cooperation throughout the country, particularly in the western area. And part of the reason accounting for that is people in the western area where we are having the highest spike of cases are just too tired and fed up with the general condemnation from the rest of the country,” said government spokesman Abdulai Bayraytay.

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

Bayraytay’s comments came after UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon praised the West African country’s efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak during an official visit on Friday.

“He was very much pleased with what he saw and he emphasized the point we have been making as a government and experts on the ground in the fight against Ebola that indeed even though Ebola hasn’t got a silver bullet treatment, but when people report early, they still stand a chance to be given the support they deserve as well as being treated and released,” said Bayraytay.

“He further went on to congratulate the president for leading a social mobilization so that communities can own up to the virus itself so that local initiative can complement whatever international efforts that are trickling into the country all in a bid to eradicate the virus,” he added.

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

Some critics predict the ban on public celebrations of Christmas will be another ineffective measure. They say the government’s order infringes on Sierra Leone’s constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion.

But, Bayraytay says there are strong indications that government’s efforts to contain the outbreak are working. He said President Bai Koroma has demonstrated commitment to help eradicate the disease.

“He reinstated the point that it is time for the country to take a break from all those traditional practices that people should only call the 117 [helpline] so that we can have safe medical burials in situations wherein people happen to die at home and people are not sure what may have caused their death. And that is paying off because some people are turning up such people that are sick,” Bayraytay said.