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31 Mar 2020 | 10:01 AM UTC

Sierra Leone: Country confirms first case of COVID-19 March 31 /update 5

Sierra Leone confirms first case of COVID-19 on March 31; further spread of the virus expected

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Event

On Tuesday, March 31, President Julius Maada Bio confirmed Sierra Leone's first case of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The infected individual is a 37 year-old man who returned to the country from France on March 16. 

Restrictive measures remain in place as of Tuesday to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. On Friday, March 27, authorities announced the closure of all borders for 30 days, except for the transport of essential items. Additionally, all schools, entertainment centers, and religious institutions have been closed, and public gatherings of more than 100 people have been banned. In Freetown, market opening hours have been limited to between 07:00 and 19:00 (local time), and all commercial flights to and from the capital's Lungi International Airport (FNA) have been indefinitely suspended. 

Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.

Context

The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.

Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.

Advice

Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.

To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
  • If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.