FREETOWN (AFP) – Sierra Leone announced plans on Monday to visit every home in the country of six million to track down people with Ebola and remove dead bodies.
More than 20,000 volunteers will go door-to-door as part of a three-day curfew announced on Saturday, Steven Ngaoja, the head of the country’s Ebola Emergency Operations Centre, told a news conference in Freetown.
“From September 19 to 21, every household in the country will be visited. About 21,400 trained volunteers will be involved in the house-to-house sensitisation activity,” Ngaoja said.
“Likely Ebola cases will be identified or dead bodies will be referred to contact tracing, referral or burial teams.”
The worst-ever outbreak of Ebola has claimed 491 lives in Sierra Leone, one of three countries at the epicentre of the epidemic which has so far killed more than 2,000 people.
The government said on Saturday pedestrians and vehicles would be barred from the streets, except on essential business, for 72 hours starting from September 19 “to ensure that the dreaded disease is checked”.
Ngaoja told reporters President Ernest Bai Koroma would address the nation on September 18, officially declaring a “sit-at-home three days for family reflection, prayers and education while families will be visited by campaign teams”.
“We have no choice but to go into it with great commitment and determination,” Koroma said in a nationwide address broadcast on Monday.
“We must make sure that we put Ebola behind us. We have to prepare the minds of our people that making a sacrifice for three days and living for another 20 or more years is better than not making the sacrifice and you die within 21 days.”
He recorded the speech at a weekend meeting of cabinet ministers and other politicians, aid agencies including Medecines san Frontieres (MSF) and the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO).
The announcement of the curfew has proved controversial, with MSF claiming it would not halt the spread of Ebola and could actually make things worse as more cases are driven underground.
The WHO has said it is hopeful a vaccine could be available for health workers to use by November.