“We have tested 13 people in the country with zero cases. Of that number, some were among the 11 people who dropped off here but came in the same flight with the first case in Liberia. We have traced all of them and they are being monitored.”
These were the words of the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Prof. Dr. Alpha Wurie during a press conference held at State House on Thursday 19th March, 2020 to update the press on the country’s state of preparedness to face the COVID-19 pandemic in the event it creeps into the country.
Earlier however, His Excellency President Dr. Julius Maada Bio in his address to the media and civil society groups spoke on the enhanced Coronavirus preparedness, emphasizing that the government sees no reason for panic or a lockdown at this time.
He, however, warned that things could change very fast and the government would respond to those rapid changes robustly, including declaring a State of Emergency to protect public health and safety under the law.
“We urge citizens to adopt a disciplined approach to our key prevention imperatives – hygiene, social distancing, and cough etiquette,” he said, adding that “we believe as a Government that the best way to deal with a crisis is to prevent a crisis and that the best time to deal with a crisis is to plan well-ahead of that crisis and “that is what we are doing,” he said.
While he agreed with what he described as the grim reminder that the novel COVID-19 was a highly infectious and deadly disease with a clear and present danger Sierra Leone could not afford, he also noted that the life of every citizen mattered.
“I repeat, the life of every Sierra Leonean matters. As a Government, we are determined to protect, enhance, and enrich the lives of Sierra Leoneans. That is why my Government prepared three testing sites, an isolation unit, and working on equipping treatment centres. That is why my Government has activated the Emergency Operations Centre to Level 2 to coordinate initial preparedness and response and also a toll-free number 117 and a dedicated call centre,” he said.
“But we are a fast-learning Government and we will continue to implement forward-looking improvements to our processes and our management of everything around Corona. I have taken leadership of the fight against Corona and I intend to lead a lean, well-structured, and fully committed team of Sierra Leoneans and partners,” he said.
Speaking further, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Professor Alpha Tejan Wurie, said Sierra Leone was one of two countries in the region with fully equipped capacity to test for the virus and some locals had been trained to efficiently operate it. He disclosed that 3 Sierra Leonean medical doctors would soon return from Congo, Brazzaville where they are undergoing training in dealing with the Coronavirus.
He added that schools would remain in progress until the end of March, and that in the event of any one case they could close all such institutions of learning.
Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, informed journalists that the threat of coronavirus was already costing the country with growth projections and gains made in revenue mobilization being revised and reversed.
Chief Minister Professor David Francis, who is providing leadership for the ministerial and intra-governmental agency efforts at dealing with the Coronavirus, assured civil society and the media of more engagements and more spot visits to get first-hand information. He also praised the leadership of the President.