On Tuesday the 24th of March, President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone introduced a 12-month state of emergency to tackle the COVID-19 disease, even though the country has not recorded a single case. This move is taken in preparedness for the outbreak of the pandemic.
“The rapid global spread of the coronavirus poses a great risk to human life and can cause enormous socio-economic disruption in Sierra Leone,” reads a statement by Bio. He added that “the situation, therefore, requires effective measures to prevent, protect, and curtail the spread of the coronavirus diseases in Sierra Leone.”
To further enlighten his people on the move, President Bio explained that the measure “is not a lockdown and nobody must use this as an excuse to hoard goods, hike prices, or engage in acts of lawlessness; this public emergency is not meant to make the lives of Sierra Leoneans difficult or unbearable.”
The West African country is one of the few African countries that have implemented drastic measures in readiness against the outbreak of the new coronavirus. Rwanda took similar precautionary measures before recording its first case on March 8th.
Sierra Leone is one of the two countries in Africa with facilities to test for the coronavirus far before its outbreak, the P3-Lab built by the Chinese during the Ebola outbreak. The country has also set up three testing sites with the capacity to do 40 tests per day, in addition to a well-equipped, 30-bed isolation unit at the 34 Military Hospital.
The country is also fortunate to have benefited from China this period of the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to Hu Zhangliang, Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Beijing was donating 1,000 testing kits, 1,000 surgical masks, 1,000 medical gloves, 500 N95 respirators, 500 sets of protective gowns, 200 medical goggles, and a 50kva generator to the country. This would boost the country’s precautionary measures against the virus.
This robust nationwide response by President Bio is being activated to save the country from the negative impacts of COVID-19 which has a high potency to mar its economy and social life like the time of the 2014-2016 Ebola Virus Outbreak which had infected 14,124 people and claimed 3956 lives.
Malawi is another Southern Africa coronavirus-free nation that has declared a national day of disaster to COVID-19. The government, since Monday, the 23rd of March, has shut down schools and colleges; both private and public universities.
The country’s government is restricting public gatherings to less than 100 people. This restriction applies to all gatherings including weddings, funerals, church, congregations, rallies and government meetings. The national security has been ordered into action to enforce these restrictions.
In a report, George Jobe, Director of Malawi Health Equity Network warned that the country should absolutely prepare for the worst. This is due to the fact that many Malawians travel to South Africa daily and people of the two countries are constantly trading with each other. “This means that Malawi should intensify screening in all airports and borders across the country,” Jobe said.
The World Health Organisations has also commended the drastic measures taken by governments to contain the spread of the COVID-19, however, it admonishes them to go beyond lockdowns and restrictions to eradicate the disease.
To slow the spread of #COVID19, many countries introduced “lockdown” measures. But on their own, these measures will not extinguish epidemics. We call on all countries to use this time to attack the #coronavirus.
You’ve created a 2nd window of opportunity. pic.twitter.com/jupcsdYnWm
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 25, 2020
Other African countries that have not recorded a case of the COVID-19 pandemic include Libya, Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Botswana, Sao Tome and Principe, Lesotho, South Sudan and Comoros.