FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — Authorities are ordering people in Sierra Leone to stay inside their homes for three days later this month as part of an effort to stop the spread of Ebola, which has killed more than 2,000 people across West Africa, a government spokesman said Saturday.
Abdulai Bayraytay said the government is telling people to stay inside their homes on Sept. 19, 20 and 21. The dates were chosen to give people enough time to stock up on food and other provisions before the ban on movement goes into effect, he said.
Already though some are questioning whether the measure will help. Doctors Without Borders says it "will be extremely difficult for health workers to accurately identify cases through door-to-door screening."
Even if suspected cases are identified during the lockdown, the group says Sierra Leone doesn't have enough beds for them.
"Without a place to take suspected cases — to screen and treat them — the approach cannot work," the group said Saturday. "It has been our experience that lockdowns and quarantines do not help control Ebola as they end up driving people underground and jeopardizing the trust between people and health providers. This leads to the concealment of potential cases and ends up spreading the disease further."
Ebola has killed more than 2,000 people across West Africa, including more than 400 deaths in Sierra Leone.
A physician said Friday that health care in the capital city of Freetown has "crumbled" because many people were terrified to go to hospitals and some doctors are wary of treating those who do show up.
Speaking at the launch of a public education program in Freetown, Kwame O'Neil said patients suffering from all kinds of ailments are dying for lack of treatment because of these fears.
One young girl died of appendicitis when, after showing up at a hospital, a doctor there denied he was a doctor and refused to treat her, O'Neil said.