By Amin Kef Sesay
President Dr Julius Maada Bio on the 3 March 2020 visited the Infectious Disease Prevention Centre at 34 Military Hospital on Wilberforce Barracks in Freetown to assess the country’s level of preparedness to face any Coronavirus outbreak.
Commander, Medical Service at the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, Stephen Sevalie, said that they had increased their level of preparedness and were doing their best to tackle any possible outbreak further confirming that they had the capability to get timely mobile deployments.
Briefly, President Bio said: “I want to thank you very much for the good work you are doing here. I wanted to come here myself and assess our state of readiness”.
As part of his assessment tour, the President and key Government functionaries later departed to the Lungi Community in Port Loko on a similar conducted tour of the Lungi International Airport Infectious Disease Prevention points, the Airport Hotel and the Harmony Guest House.
He visited the Lungi International Airport, the Government Hospital in the area in the north-western district town and called on Sierra Leoneans to take precautionary measures in tackling any possible Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Addressing staff at the country’s only airport, President Bio said he was visiting to check on the country’s state of readiness for any Coronavirus outbreak, adding that the disease was already affecting other countries around the world. He said that Sierra Leone had gone through a similar outbreak before with the Ebola Virus Disease, noting that that should serve as an experience to prevent a similar disease from entering the country.
“Using our past experience from Ebola, we thought we should raise awareness about what is happening around the world and how we can secure our country against the Coronavirus. This airport is a major point of entry to the country, so you have to make sure the processes that have been established are adhered to. Those of you working here are at the frontline and you must put measures in place. I want us all to be more vigilant and work collectively to fight the virus,” he said.
Speaking at the Government Hospital in Lungi, the President said that he wanted to verify what had been done in the event of any possible outbreak. He said that the nation was dependent on its medical practitioners in case of an outbreak, adding that that was why he was calling on them to be prepared. He also commended the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the medical personnel for already putting plans in place.
“I want us to go into the mood of washing hands as frequently as possible, reduce handshaking and using hand sanitizers to make sure that the Coronavirus does not enter Sierra Leone. I am raising awareness so that we all can become fighters against the virus. We are putting plans to ensure you are all well-protected when performing your duty,” he assured health workers.
Country Representative for the World Health Organization, WHO, Evans Liyosi, said that the action of the President to monitor and get first-hand information was a move in the right direction. He saidt the virus was already in other parts of Africa, adding that Sierra Leone must do everything to prepare itself for any possible outbreak.
Many people have died globally from COVID-19, as the illness is officially known, while more than 89,000 infections have been confirmed in dozens of countries, according to the World Health Organization.