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
News
Disruption at Waterloo after a person was hit by a train
newsCancellations and disrupted service after person hit by train
News
Kirsty Bertarelli is launching a singing career with an album of songs detailing her observations of “real life”
news
News
The show will be billed as Clarkson, Hammond and May Live
people
Arts and Entertainment
The almost deserted Liverpool Echo Arena on Monday
tvCan X Factor last in the face of plummeting numbers auditioning
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence