Ebola crisis: Sierra Leone and Liberia announce state of emergency

Tough new measures will include house-to-house searches to round up suspected victims being hidden by their families and military-enforced quarantine zones

The Ebola virus outbreak has led both Sierra Leone and Liberia to declare states of public emergency, meaning the army can now move in to enforce quarantine zones.

It is a major escalation of both governments’ responses to the disease, which has killed more than 670 people across four West African countries since February.

The measures in Sierra Leone were announced in a statement late last night by President Ernest Bai Koroma, and came just hours after a similar declaration from neighbouring Liberia.

Top health officials have repeatedly criticised the lack of national and international organisation in response to the Ebola outbreak, which has seen fears in Britain and the rest of the world that the virus could be transmitted globally.

Video: Death toll continues to rise across West Africa

In Sierra Leone, poor infection control systems and chaos sparked by mistrust in the health service have allowed the virus to reach from remote jungle epicentres right to the heart of the coastal capital Freetown.

As a result the West African airline Asky has suspended its flights to both the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone, and said passengers departing from Guinea would be carefully screened.

Read more:
Philip Hammond says UK 'ready' for Ebola outbreak
What is Ebola? The signs, source and symptoms
UK doctors and border officials warned on Ebola
The 10 biggest threats to the world's health

It is the same airline that was used by the US citizen Patrick Sawyer who flew to Lagos, Nigeria before he died from Ebola.

President Koroma has now cancelled a planned visit to Washington for the US-Africa summit next week.

Speaking late on Wednesday, he said: “I hereby proclaim a State of Public Emergency to enable us take a more robust approach to deal with the Ebola outbreak.”

The measures will be in place initially between 60 and 90 days and “all epicentres of the disease will be quarantined,” President Koroma said.

Following a number of attacks on health workers by local communities – some of whom blame the authorities for causing the disease – security forces will be used to protect NGO officers and health officials, and house-to-house searches will be carried out to track Ebola victims.

Liberia said on Wednesday it will close schools and consider quarantining some communities, while all non-essential government workers will be required to take 30 days of compulsory leave.

While Britain has brought in measures to protect its borders from the threat of an Ebola victim arriving here on a plane, the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the most effective contribution the UK can make is with helping fight the outbreak on the ground in West Africa.

By the end of the week at least five officials from Public Health England will have joined teams of experts from all over the world to help coordinate the systems of infection control, quarantine and contact tracing required to slow and ultimately end the outbreak.

International efforts are being coordinated by Medicins San Frontieres and the World Health Organisation, which said in its last Ebola updated that it continues to “scale up and strengthen all aspects of the response” across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us