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As citizens express mixed reactions…

PC Vangahun slammed for ‘barring Ebola ambulances’

AUGUST 29, 2014 By Matthew Jabby

 ... Outreach Coordinator in the Office of the Government Spokesman

… Outreach Coordinator in the Office of the Government Spokesman

Outreach Coordinator in the Office of the Government Spokesman, Abdulai Bayraytay, yesterday told newsmen in Freetown that Paramount Chief Amara Vangahun of Kenema lacks the authority to stop Ebola ambulances from entering the township because “the country is at present in a public emergency”.

He said the pronouncement by the main traditional ruler in the epicenter town did not go down well within government circle, as the country struggles to contain and eradicate the four months old outbreak, which has killed more than 300.

Chief Vangahun passed an edict on Tuesday (27 August) banning ambulances from other parts of the country from transferring Ebola patients to the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kenema.

According to the chief, such action would only increase the alarming rate of new Ebola cases in the eastern provincial headquarter town where, according to Ministry of Health and Sanitation figures, more than 300 residents have so far contracted the virus, with more than half of that number dead.

The town is one of two epicentres of the disease, which its approximately 500,000 inhabitants blame on the fact that Ebola cases from all but one district, including Freetown, are taken to the town for treatment. They claim that the daily transfer of Ebola patients to one of two operational treatment centres in the country makes the township more vulnerable to new cases of the disease due to the fact that nurses and health workers in the community are exposed to the virus at the treatment centre, and they go on to have contact with residents.

Bayraytay aimed a swipe at the chief that he would have thought differently had he consulted the Council of Paramount Chiefs, headed by Paramount Chief Charles Caulker.

He maintained that the state of emergency, proclaimed by President Ernest Bai Koroma on 23 July, proscribes anyone from putting the lives of the people in danger, and that the chief’s edict could prompt the central government to intervene.

He, however, declined to comment on what specific line of action the government would take should the chief enforce his proclamation.

Meanwhile, the debate over the pronouncement by the chief continues in both the traditional and social media. Mixed views have been expressed with some against the move, while others are solidly in favour of it, arguing that a precedent had been set in Koinadugu District – which has recorded no Ebola case so far – where a district task force has pronounced a curfew and lockdown the entire district despite the public emergency.