Despite no COVID-19 cases, Sierra Leone declares 12-month state of emergency

Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio attends a press conference after a meeting with Ivorian President on May 4, 2018 at the presidentaial palace in Abidjan. (Photo by Sia KAMBOU / AFP) (Photo credit should read SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Sierra Leone, one of the few countries yet to declare a case of coronavirus, introduced a 12-month state of emergency to deal with the disease.

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio

The nationwide measure is effective immediately, President Julius Maada Bio said Tuesday on state television in the capital, Freetown.

“This is not a lockdown and nobody must use this as an excuse to hoard goods, hike prices or engage in acts of lawlessness,” Bio said.

He said the move is meant to enable the government to appropriately respond to the pandemic, noting that it would allow it to prevent, protect, and curtail the entry of the virus into the country.

While Sierra Leone has not confirmed any case of the viral disease, its neighbours Guinea and Liberia have.

“The rapid global spread of coronavirus poses an immense risk to human beings that can lead to major loss of life and can cause socio-economic disruption in Sierra Leone. This situation requires effective measures,” he said in a televised address on Tuesday.

Sierra Leone was one of three countries at the epicenter of an Ebola epidemic that began in 2014 and killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa. The nation’s $4.1 billion economy is still struggling to recover from the effects of that outbreak.

The government has also had to deal with the aftermath of a mudslide in Freetown in 2017 that killed about 1,100 people.