On Friday, March 27, the Sierra Leonean government announced closure of all its borders for 30 days, except for the transport of essential items, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The latest measures come after the government's declaration of a 12-month state of emergency on Wednesday, March 25, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the state of emergency, the armed forces and police will be deployed across the country to enforce compliance with all public health directives. Additionally, all schools and entertainment centers, and religious institutions will be closed. In the capital Freetown, market opening hours have been adjusted to between 07:00 and 19:00 (local time) and handwashing stations have been delivered to health facilities, markets, and schools.
Previously, the government issued a ban on all public gatherings of more than 100 people. All commercial flights to and from Freetown Lungi's International Airport (FNA) have been suspended as of Sunday, March 22, and the airport has been closed until further notice.
As of Saturday, March 28, no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Sierra Leone. Further international spread of the virus expected in the near term.
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.
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.
Potentially impacted travelers are advised to monitor the situation, confirm travel itineraries, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities and their home governments.
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.