Freetown residents revel in new freedom
August 10, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
Almost a year after widespread restrictions were placed on social and political gatherings as a result of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease in Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma last Thursday (6 August) announced their removal in a nationwide broadcast.
The removal of the emergency regulations did not come to many as a surprise, after the only opposition party with a significant minority in Parliament withdrew their support for any extension, in a statement on 29 July.
And, following popular outcry from well-meaning citizens and groups that the regulations had outlived their efficacy, as the outbreak itself is confined to just two of the fourteen districts in the country.
However, in his pronouncement last Thursday, President Koroma observed that: “Ebola is a very stubborn disease, and our experts tell us that it usually comes back to places that are declared Ebola free. We have seen this happen in our sister Republic of Liberia. This is a reminder to us in Sierra Leone that even as we strive to get to zero, we shall have to remain vigilant and on our guard in anticipation of any future Ebola outbreaks. Together we must remain the eyes and ears in this fight.”
He told the expectant public that “Some measures are no longer deemed necessary at this stage of the fight. My government will lift the following restrictions with immediate effect:
“The prohibition on public meetings and gatherings is lifted. The prohibition on sporting activities is lifted. The prohibition on nightclubs and video centre operations is lifted. The prohibition on market and general activities is lifted. Okadas [commercial motorbikes] to operate from 6 am to midnight daily,” he declared.
The general mood across the city of Freetown was carnival like last Friday as youths revel in their new found freedom.
“We were growing older at home with the state of emergency in force. We can now enjoy as youths,” expressed Osman Kamara at Hannah Benka-Coker Street in Freetown.
In May 2014, the country was faced with one of the most difficult challenges in its history, akin to the eleven years rebel war. As such, government put in place some strict measures to curtail the spread of the disease. Most affected by the emergency regulations were entertainment centres, market women and commercial motorbike riders.
In their reaction to lifting of the restrictions, youths, mainly commercial motorbike riders across the city, expressed joy saying, “We used to have two categories of riders before the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease in the country. There were those who plied during the day while others plied at night. All of that came to a halt as result of the emergency regulations,” Joseph Kanu, an Okada rider said.
“We were finding it difficult because all of us plied the street during the day. Passengers were not easy to come by, but we are happy that the ban has been lifted,” he continued.
But President Koroma cautioned that “These restrictions are eased, provided venues and facilities adhere to all Ebola Prevention Protocols, including temperature screening of employees and customers, hand-washing and prevention of overcrowding. Failure to observe these essential public health measures will result in the closure or barring of activities.”
There is still a restriction on public burials though.