Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Sierra Leone orders lockdown April 5-7 to curb the spread of COVID-19. Extension of lockdown and other measures likely through April.

This alert affects Sierra Leone

This alert began 02 Apr 2020 11:41 GMT and is scheduled to expire 07 Apr 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least the end of April
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions

Summary
Sierra Leone continues to enforce measures to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The government has declared a three-day national lockdown April 5-7. During the lockdown, all persons in the country will be required to stay at home. It is not clear if the order will exclude essential sectors such as health, food, and security; however, it is likely that these and other essential sectors will be exempted from the order. There have reportedly been some calls by the medical sector to extend the lockdown to 14 days. Authorities have also declared April 4 National Cleaning Day. There will reportedly be restrictions on movement during the morning. The exact details of the restrictions are unclear; however, it is likely that public transportation will be reduced. Businesses may also close.

The new measures complement existing health and travel restrictive measures, including the closure of land borders to passenger travel, the suspension of international commercial passenger flight operations at Freetown International Airport (FNA), the closure of schools, the ban on large public gatherings, and the suspension of religious gatherings. Emergency flights will still be allowed to proceed via FNA, the only international airport in the country. The transport of cargo through the land borders is likely to continue, albeit with increased screenings at land border crossing points that could result in disruptions to supply chains. The status of maritime transportation and seaports is unclear; however, disruptions are likely due to enhanced health screenings at ports of entry.

Additional measures are likely to be taken by the authorities through at least the end of April and could be announced at short notice.

Background and Analysis
The measures taken by Sierra Leone's government correspond with similar actions taken by other governments globally in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19, a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
World Health Organisation (WHO): www.who.int

Sierra Leone Ministry of Health: https://mohs.gov.sl

Sierra Leone State House: https://statehouse.gov.sl