Sierra Leone quarantines 1 million people due to Ebola outbreak

Your latest dispatch from hell

Published September 25, 2014 4:06PM (EDT)

Scanning electron microscopic image of Ebola virions                                                         (Public Library of Science)
Scanning electron microscopic image of Ebola virions (Public Library of Science)

Thursday morning, Sierra Leone began a quarantine of more than 1 million people as the lethal Ebola outbreak continues to rage in West Africa. Two of the country's eastern districts, Kenema and Kailahun, were already under strict quarantine, while the new quarantine will add northern districts of Port Loko and Bombali, as well as the southern district of Moyamba, essentially immobilizing more than one-third of the country's population.

While the country's capital, Freetown, is not yet quarantined, the World Health Organization reported a sharp spike in the number of cases in the city.

According to the WHO's latest figures, the virus has killed at least 2,917 and infected 6,242 people as it continues to spread rapidly through Sierra Leone and Liberia. Fortunately, the outbreak seems to have stabilized in Guinea.

Agence France-Presse reported on the situation in Sierra Leone:

[President Ernest Bai Koroma] said 12 of the county's [sic] 149 tribal chiefdoms -- much smaller administrative areas than districts -- were also to be placed in quarantine. The total population in these areas was not immediately clear.

He announced that corridors for travel to and from non-quarantined areas had been established but would only operate between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.

The lockdown was "line [sic] with our people's avowed commitment to support extra measures to end the Ebola outbreak," Koroma said.

"The Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the emergency operation centre will establish additional holding centres in the quarantined chiefdoms," he added.

"The isolation of districts and chiefdoms will definitely pose great difficulties for our people in those districts," said Koroma. "[But] the life of everyone and the survival of our country take precedence over these difficulties."

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Ebola President Ernest Bai Koroma Quarantine Sierra Leone