Sierra Leone placed 700 homes in the capital of the country, Aberdeen, under Ebola quarantine, after the death of a fisherman who tested positive for the deadly tropical virus. This is a huge blow for its recovery less than a month after it lifted all restrictions on movement.
Obi Sesay of the government's National Ebola Response Center said, "We are on top of the situation and people should not panic. A special control center had been set up to deal with the incident. Aberdeen has been flooded with surveillance officers and contact tracers to ensure the death didn't turn into a serious outbreak."
President Ernest Bai Koroma had pointed to a steady downward trend in new Ebola cases on January 23, lifting country-wide quarantines affecting half the population and declaring that victory is in sight. But optimism gave way to fresh alarm when the World Health Organization (WHO) reported the number of new cases rising across Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea for the second week. The WHO said, "Transmission remains widespread in Sierra Leone, which reported 76 new confirmed cases in the week to February 8."
Freetown mayor Bode Gibson, who visited Aberdeen, told reporters that he was shocked and disappointed as the new case had shattered expectations that the city was approaching the milestone of zero new cases in its weekly count. He said, "The lifting of the free movement ban was to allow residents to resume trade, not for them to become complacent and behave irresponsibly to increase the spread of the disease."
Arouna Taylor, a resident of Aberdeen, said, "Canoes from Ebola hotspots like Port Loko further up the coast were docking in the area and bringing the virus with them. Boats are suspected to be bringing sick people at night for treatment in the capital, so the development has not come as a surprise."
The WHO said, "The spike in cases in Guinea and continued widespread transmission in Sierra Leone underline the considerable challenges that must still be overcome to get to zero cases."