Sierra Leone: Covid-19 – Govt Confirms Third Wave, Toughens Measures

Sierra Leone has reintroduced restrictive measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 after announcing a third wave of infections.

The public must now wear face masks to access all public places and transportation, ensure social distancing and wash hands using alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Worship time at mosques, churches and other such establishments has been reduced while all entertainment centers will cease operations for one month. Super spreader events were also banned.

The number of guests at social gatherings, including weddings, funerals, receptions and naming ceremonies, was limited to 50.

These and several other measures take effect immediately, the National Coronavirus Response Center (NaCOVERC) announced in a statement on Thursday.

The government has also encouraged vaccination.

Data-driven measures

NaCOVERC said its decision was informed by epidemiological data, which revealed an “exponential rise” in cases and deaths.

“This assessment has been informed by the WHO alert as well as a thorough examination of epidemiological data, particularly for the last one month, which strongly indicates not only exponential rise in confirmed cases, increased positivity rates, hospitalisation and deaths,” it said in the statement.

“We are further informed by available data that a significant number of positive cases are from samples obtained from patients in health facilities,” it added.

NaCOVERC also said the cases are “predominantly” in the western part of the country, which comprises the capital, Freetown, and its surroundings.

It added that in the current wave, many of the cases are symptomatic, unlike the first and second waves registered in the first one year of the pandemic.

Vaccination challenge

Meanwhile, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), while noting the third wave in the country, called for acceleration of vaccination coverage.

Africa CDC Director, Dr John Nkengasong, said Friday that 15 member countries had confirmed dealing with the third wave, and that 13 had the Delta variant, which is said to be behind India’s devastating experience.

Dr Nkengasong blamed low vaccine coverage on the continent for the spike.

Only around 0.79 percent of Africa’s population is said to be fully vaccinated.

Five countries – Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia and South Africa – have administered the most doses, according to the Africa CDC.

As of Thursday, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases on the continent had reached 5,108,890, including 136,030 deaths, according to the agency.

Countries struggling

Countries like Sierra Leone are struggling not only to secure enough Covid-19 vaccines to cover their populations but also to convince people to take the jab, thanks to vaccine apathy caused by misconceptions.

This is why some of the new measures by the West African country are tailored at boosting vaccine uptake.

For instance, starting June 22, government ministries, departments and agencies will only be accessed by employees and members of the public with proof of taking at least one dose of the vaccine, NaCOVERC said.

The agency also said all sporting activities will be held behind closed doors, with only footballers and officials with proof of vaccination allowed into the venues.

Sierra Leone had been recognized among countries with the least daily cases of the viral disease but the country began experiencing a rise in cases earlier this month. The numbers soared in the last one week.

NaCOVERC data shows cases increased by 246 percent, with 187 recorded over the last seven days, compared to 54 recorded the previous week.

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