Sierra Leone is growing new concern about the Ebola outbreak, as Vice President Samuel Sam-Sumana elected to place himself under a 21-day quarantine following the untimely death of one of his bodyguards. He said, “I have decided to be put under quarantine because I do not want to take chances and I want to lead by example,” but the quarantine is not really what concerns individuals living and working in Sierra Leone the most. Even as Sam-Sumana pointed out that he is showing no symptoms and that he feels “very well,” he is taking no chances moving forward.
While the global concern about Ebola has faded significantly, as there were only 99 reported cases in the region as of the 22nd of February – 63 of them came from Sierra Leone. While locations like Liberia and Guinea saw very few new infections of the disease in the same period. His bodyguard’s name was John Koroma and he passed last week at the hands of the disease, which sparked new concern, especially that a government official could have been infected. Thus making the quarantine more than just a political move – but a move for very specific health reasons, as well.
The new concern and recent reemergence of the Ebola virus has caused government officials in the area to reevaluate some of the standards and practices that they had been executing to that point. Officials pointed out that they had reinstated some of the rules and restrictions that they had placed on them when the outbreak was originally happening – but lifted more-recently as worries began to fade. Some of the restrictions that have been set back in place are things like setting time limits and curfews on when commercial trucks can be unloaded, and reducing the public transportation load by as much as 25% in an effort to limit contact between passengers.
While this is not something that is overly concerning government officials, or individuals outside the Sierra Leone area, it is something that has to be watched very carefully, as the Ebola virus is anything but defeated. The number of cases has been greatly reduced, but periods of reemergence have to be challenged with swift action – and in this case that is precisely what Sierra Leone’s Vice President Sam-Sumana has done here, by leading in this obviously challenging time.