By Umaru Fofana
FREETOWN (Reuters) - Sierra Leone has declared a state of public emergency to tackle the worst ever outbreak of Ebola and will call in security forces to quarantine epicenters of the deadly virus, President Ernest Bai Koroma said in a statement.
The measures resembled a tough anti-Ebola package announced by neighboring Liberia on Wednesday evening. Koroma announced he was cancelling a visit to Washington for a U.S.-Africa summit next week because of the crisis and would instead hold an emergency meeting with regional leaders in Guinea on Friday.
Highly infectious Ebola has been blamed for 672 deaths in the West Africa nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization.
"I hereby proclaim a State of Public Emergency to enable us take a more robust approach to deal with the Ebola outbreak," he said in a speech late on Wednesday, adding that the measures would initially last between 60 and 90 days. "All epicenters of the disease will be quarantined."
Koroma said that the police and the military would restrict movements to and from epicenters, and would provide support to health officers and NGOs to do their work unhindered, following a number of attacks on healthworkers by local communities.
He said that house-to-house searches would be implemented to trace Ebola victims and quarantine them. He also said that new protocols had been established for passengers arriving and departing Lungi International Airport outside Freetown, but he did not provide further details.
(Reporting by Umaru Fofana; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Toby Chopra)