Social Distancing for now is a Preventive Measure Impossible

Social Distancing

By Amin Kef Sesay

Nobody should make the mistake that COVID-19 is a mere myth. The virus is REAL and it is taking a heavy toll on lives and economies right across the globe as no continent has been spared from the ravages it is causing. This point must be strongly registered against the backdrop that there are certain people in our midst who are tenaciously denying the existence of the virus in this country, on the basis that it is just a mere ploy on the part of the Government to be considered for any form of financial support or donation that the International Community could dish out towards combating the spread of the virus.

In a nutshell, they are claiming that the Government is not saying the truth that the virus does not exist in this part of the world, simply out of greed and financial aggrandizement. But such a similar denial was one of the conspiracy theories that went a little bit viral after the Ebola outbreak surfaced not until when loved ones were consumed in droves by the virus when indeed the realization dawned, on those who hitherto held a contrary view, that indeed the Ebola virus was REAL and DEADLY.

At this material time, the most disheartening thing about this unprecedented virus, which only reared its ugly head towards the end of 2019 in the Far East, precisely in China, is that it has remained elusive. Up to this time there has been no known cure, though medical researchers are currently working frantically round the clock to discover or come up with a vaccine, which many are yearning for because most are now sick and tired of the dislocations the spread of the virus is causing.

Here in Sierra Leone, since the Corona virus entered the country the SLPP-Led Government under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio has really take huge strides to contain its spread among the populace. Necessary medical mechanisms have been put in place with regards setting up a Response Team, instituting additional treatment centres, procuring additional medical equipments, boosting the morale of health workers and instituting other parameters that are all geared towards curtailing the spread of the virus.

Our President has indeed, really demonstrated exemplary leadership in mobilizing both human and material resources just to keep the country safe from the deadly clutches of one of the most deadly viruses that has invaded humanity. President Bio must be truly commended for his sincerity in leading the fight!

The world over, preventive measures have been mapped out which all must follow or strictly adhere to in order not to come in contact with the virus. The most outstanding being, frequent washing of hands with soap/sanitizer, to avoid handshaking, make use of face masks, avoid frequent touching of the nose, eyes, mouth, avoid hand shaking, to cover our mouths with our elbows whenever we cough or sneeze, use tissue to cover our mouths as an alternative and quickly dispose it in the bin and practice social distancing of three feet apart. These preventive measures have now become messages that the Government and its health partners are disseminating using different mediums with the objecting of raising awareness in order for people to put them into practice.

So far, so good, we have witnessed the placing of veronica buckets, soap, hand-sanitizers at the entrances of public institutions for people to wash their hands and they are complying. People are noticeably avoiding shaking of hands, when individuals show signs of the disease 117 is being called to get the timely responses of health workers. There has been contact tracing, isolation and quarantine of suspected cases and all the like.

When it comes to social distancing measures have been taken by the Government including banning of  worship in churches and mosques, banning of football matches and other entertainment activities that bring people together, moratorium placed on public gathering of not more than 100 people, reducing the number of passengers in vehicles, closure of our borders with neighboring Guinea and Liberia. All these are supposed to be strictly enforced by our security personnel, the Military and Police.

Lamentably, though, as far as social distancing is concerned we are far from getting it right as a nation. The clustering of people in marketplaces and the jostling for transportation in public places, especially during rush hours when people are desperate to return home, rubbing against each other are very mind boggling. Take a ride along Guard Street in the East End of Freetown, where most people purchase cooking ingredients for cooking purposes; you will quickly notice that we are far from achieving social distancing.

You see large crowds of people unavoidably having close body contacts as if we are living in normal times when indeed, in actual fact, times are not normal.

Poda-Poda drivers still continue to cram people in their vehicles simply because they want to conduct business as usual and hapless passengers have no alternative in the face of limited vehicles and not wanting to be caught violating the 9:00 pm to 6:00am curfew. Law enforcement officers just turn blind eyes as if we are living during normal times when in actual fact we are not.

The situation is indeed quite serious and very frightening to say the least.

Although comparatively, Sierra Leone has recorded low rates of deaths from COVID-19 but the fact and heart of the matter is that the number of infected cases keep rising on a daily basis and the future is unknown. Against such a bleak backdrop, even though efforts and resources are being expended to shove up the fight against the advancement of the enemy, without getting social distancing right is really a big cause for concern.

What must now be preferable is to direct more focus towards enhancing social distancing and one way of going about it is to galvanize our security personnel to be very stern in implementing it to the letter. Vehicles must be regularly checked to see that there is strict adherence to social distancing. If what was being rumoured that marketplaces will be relocated to various stadia is anything to go by then it is deemed to be a good step in the right direction. Those places could indeed be spacious enough to prevent the clogging of people as was evidently seen at Guard Street.

The Government can impose as many lock downs as possible, millions of Leones could be spent on awareness raising campaigns for people to adhere to preventive messages but if we fail to maximize social distancing then the possibility to see the reduction of newly infected cases will be farfetched.

Now is the time to act before it becomes too late. A stitch in time………..

May Common Sense Prevail!



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