Sierra Leone said Thursday it will confine around 2.5 million people to their homes across the capital and in the north in a three-day shutdown aimed at stemming the Ebola epidemic.
The worst-ever outbreak of the virus has claimed almost 3,700 lives in the impoverished west African nation, one of three countries that have seen their economies wrecked and healthcare systems obliterated in the crisis.
“The lockdown will be conducted from March 27 to March 29 and will be like the one we conducted in September last year,” said Palo Conteh, head of the country s National Ebola Response Centre.
“The government and partners are hopeful that latent cases that are now not being reported or recorded will come out.”
The action, which follows a nationwide lockdown in September, was announced after the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday that the death toll from Ebola since December 2013 stood at almost 10,200.
One of the deadliest viruses known to man, Ebola is spread only through direct contact with the bodily fluids of the recently deceased or an infected person showing symptoms such as fever or vomiting.
No licenced vaccine or treatment exists for the gruesome haemorrhagic fever it causes, although several trials are underway in the three countries and elsewhere.
Authorities will use the 72-hour window to search out patients in the Western Area, which includes Freetown, as well as the northern districts of Bombali and Port Loko.
Teams of experts will go door-to-door reminding households of the dangers of traditional burials, a key factor in the spread of the virus, and investigating deaths not reported to the government.
The lockdown is aimed at controlling a recent spike in the three districts which threatened to undermine the recovery.