From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown
By Augustine Samba Jan 23, 2015
The President of the Republic of Sierra Leone Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma on Thursday 22 January 2015 removed ban on traveling and movement across Sierra Leone. Addressing the nation last evening on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Cooperation (SLBC), President Koroma disclosed that the country has taken a downward trend in the fight against Ebola and it was timely for restrictions on movement be eased to support economic activity.
“As such, there will no longer be any district or chiefdom level restrictions on movement. No quarantines or restrictions on movement above the household level will be imposed either by Government or local authorities” he stated adding “But we should not become complacent”.
However, President Koroma supported the initiative of the District Ebola Response Centers and local authorities to enhance community surveillance and community watch efforts.
“These efforts must continue as we move into a phase of hunting down the disease” he posited.
Further President Koroma said they will still embark on the second phase of the Western Area Surge, as they have decided to ease the restrictions on trading hours in the Western Area.
“Trading hours on Saturday will now end at 6pm. However, restrictions of trading on Sundays remain in force” he opined.
He said as they move towards their target of zero cases, by 31st March, hazard pay for Ebola Response Workers and health workers will be removed at the end of March. He informed that they will be reviewing the needs of the sector as a whole, to ensure transition towards a stronger and more resilient healthcare system.
President Koroma said starting from 1st of February this year; they will implement a more rigorous system of payment for hazard pay, ensuring fair compensation for exposure to risk, whilst ensuring that they will not allow people do not take unfair advantage of the system.
“Any persons found to have falsified lists or taken advantage of the system will be investigated” he warned.
He said they will not let the heroic and tireless and zealous works of the burial teams, swappers, doctors, nurses, lab technicians, surveillance officers and others be tainted by those wishing to take advantage of the situation for their own personal gain will be held accountable.
He assured that NERC and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation are working intensely to ensure the urgent payment of all back pay owed to Ebola Response Workers.
President Koroma went on to say they are putting modalities in place for the safe re-opening of schools and the target date is the third and fourth week in March.
“Towards this, we have designed a Schools Re-opening Programme that will ensure the following actions” he maintained.
He said prior to the re-opening of schools they will disinfect all institutions which have been used as Holding and/or Treatment Centers as well as those institutions identified as having accommodated Ebola victims.
“Satisfactory water and sanitation facilities at schools; providing educational institutions with thermal sensors; training of teachers on Ebola; safety protocols and incentives to get pupils to schools” he disclosed and further that “school feeding programme, education provisions in place for girls who became pregnant during Ebola period and are unable to return to school; and supplementing teaching and learning at all levels through broadcast programmes will be included”.
The government has designed a promising package for students which include: education provisions in place for girls who became pregnant during Ebola period and are unable to return to school; and supplementing teaching and learning at all levels through broadcast programmes until we have had zero cases for 42 days. He reiterated that until our neighbours in Liberia and Guinea have had zero cases for 42 days, unless the surveillance capacity firmly remain in place so that no new cases can go beneath the radar and until the government built the capacity and resilience in our healthcare system to break the chain of transmission and prevent future outbreaks, the fight against the scourge is not over.
He concluded that although victory is imminent, we must not relent, we must continue to push on, we must continue to refrain from touching the sick and corpses, we must continue to mount and support surveillance and contact tracing activities. “These are the actions we must collectively continue to take ensure victory in the shortest possible time, and intensify the recovery of our beloved Sierra Leone” he concluded.