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Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 09:27

Ebola: Lockdown a mixed success

By Agencies in Freetown
Ebola: Lockdown a mixed success

A street is largely deserted during a three-day lockdown to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on Sunday.  (Michael Duff / Associated Press)

Millions of people in Sierra Leone emerged from their homes on Monday after a nationwide lockdown during which scores of bodies and new cases of Ebola infections were uncovered.

The West African country confined its 6 million people to their homes for 72 hours in an attempt to stem the deadly outbreak that has claimed more than 2,600 lives there and in neighboring Liberia and Guinea this year.

"We have an overflow of bodies that we still need to bury, but this has been an everyday occurrence since the Ebola outbreak. ... Now, at the least, we have about 150 new cases," Steven Gaojia, head of the country's emergency operations center, said on Sunday.

The country's chief medical officer said earlier that up to 70 bodies had been found, but these were in and around the capital, and results for the whole country are likely to push the figures up significantly.

Only essential workers such as health professionals were exempt from the shutdown, along with about 30,000 volunteers who went door-to-door to hand out soap and give advice on halting the disease.

Observers have voiced concern over the quality of advice being given out, deeming the shutdown a "mixed success" and complaining about the poor training of the door-to-door education teams.

Trust eroded

Meanwhile, aid organizations and medical experts questioned the feasibility of reaching 1.5 million households in three days and argued that confining people to their homes could erode trust between the government and the public.

But Health Minister Abubakarr Fofanah told AFP that volunteers had managed to reach around 80 percent of the homes and deemed the action a success.

"But I cannot as of now give you statistics about the number of corpses collected during the three-day period, as we are awaiting returns from other parts of the country. This will be made known as soon as the full report is compiled," he said.

AFP - Reuters

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