Sierra Leone crowds mistakenly celebrate 'end of Ebola'

2014-10-01 05:00
Medical personnel inside a clinic taking care of Ebola patients in the Kenema District on the outskirts of Kenema, Sierra Leone. (Youssouf Bah, AP)

Medical personnel inside a clinic taking care of Ebola patients in the Kenema District on the outskirts of Kenema, Sierra Leone. (Youssouf Bah, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Freetown - Sierra Leone's government was forced to issue a statement on Tuesday denying that Ebola had been defeated, after hundreds took to the streets in provincial towns to celebrate what they thought was the end of the epidemic.

Witnesses reported crowds surging into the streets of the northern commercial hub of Makeni, chanting "Ebola is no more" and "Ebola has been defeated".

Locals said celebrations began late on Monday when a group of suspected Ebola victims were released from a holding centre with negative lab test results.

"This was misinterpreted to mean that the township was totally free from Ebola and the news, which spread like wildfire, sent hundreds into the streets to celebrate," said resident Moiwo Sesay.

"Commercial bike riders and taxi drivers honked their horns and people embraced each other while some kissed the ground."

Riot police dispersed the crowds and slapped a dusk-till-dawn curfew on residents, witnesses told AFP. There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

"It was a false alarm by some people with ill intentions," said local police spokesperson Ibrahim Samura told AFP.

Makeni, 195km north of Freetown, is the capital of Bombali district, which is under quarantine along with four other districts as part of a lockdown of more than two million people.

No public gatherings

The city has recorded some 220 confirmed Ebola cases, and 172 confirmed or probable deaths from the virus.

Witnesses said similar scenes of celebration unfolded in the northwestern town of Port Loko, the capital of a district of the same name which is also quarantined.

"The government of Sierra Leone has not declared an end of the Ebola virus disease... and is still very busy implementing measures already in place to break the chain of transmission and to eventually contain the disease, which is spreading fast across the country," the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The communique reminded Sierra Leoneans that the entire country remained under a state-of-emergency which prohibited public gatherings.

Ebola, which has killed around half of those it has infected in the west African outbreak, is spread through bodily fluids, and local health officials said they feared the celebrations in Makeni may have exacerbated the contagion.

The outbreak has claimed more than 3 000 lives this year in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Read more on:    sierra leone  |  west africa  |  ebola

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.