Lockdown… 14 Or 21 Days?

Even as it announced on Friday evening that the partial lockdown will be extended indefinitely, the Government of Sierras Leone (GoSL), with the number of COVID-19 cases in the country on a frightening upward trajectory, is reported to be in dilemma over whether or not to graduate the current partial lockdown into a full blown total lockdown; and if so, for how long?

COVID-19 spokesman, Solomon Jamiru has remarked that we either save our communities or treat them with reckless abandon. Minimizing spread and victims is at the center of the government’s strategy to fight the pandemic. Left to the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA), the Association of Private Sector Businesses and the Sierra Leone Bar Association, the country should go into 14 days lockdown to stem the spread of the virus from person to person and community to community.   

Cases have been multiplying since the index case was reported on 31st March, 2020. As such, he said, lockdowns are inevitable when the epidemiological trajectories suggest so, adding that it is always a difficult decision for any government, but it has to do what a government should do.

With the disease running faster than planning, in considering whether to lockdown the entire country for 14 days or 321 hours as the case may warrant, the government is considerate of the fact that the vast majority of sierra Leoneans survive from hand to mouth. Thus, the question is, does the government have the resources to effect a 14-day or 21-day lockdown given that many of our nurses are in quarantine? In looking for a solution, strategy obviously will change depending on the situation on the ground.

The COVID-19 spokesperson also mentioned the issue of security during lookdowns and curfews. In which regard, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised governments imposing lockdown restrictions to provide palliatives for their citizenries to enable them comply.

At a news conference in Geneva last week Monday, the WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus queried: “How do you survive in lockdown when you depend on your daily labor to eat?” The decision to lockdown, he said, must primarily be on protecting human health and guided by what we know about the virus and how it behaves.”

He therefore advised governments to impose, extend and lift restrictions, adding that it should not be done at the expense of human rights.