By Staff Reporter
Sierra Leone’s streets will be filled not with celebrations and churchgoers but with military personnel on Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day, according to an announcement from the Ebola-stricken country’s response unit for the disease.
Speaking in Freetown, the unit’s head, Palo Conteh, told reporters that in Sierra Leone, there will be “no Christmas and New Year celebrations this year.”
“We will ensure that everybody remains at home to reflect on Ebola,” Conteh said, according to AFP. “Military personnel will be on the streets at Christmas and the New Year to stop any street celebrations.”
As the AFP notes, there are few available details on the duration of the military presence, or whether the country will offer exceptions to the apparent lockdown.
Sierra Leone is a majority Muslim country, but about 10 percent of the population is Christian, according to the CIA World Factbook. Another estimate places the country’s Christian population at about 20 percent.
Sierra Leone has become the worst-affected country in the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. This week, officials placed the eastern district of Konointo lockdown after an outbreak of infections there. The Sierra Leone government put the country on lockdown for three days in September in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, President Ernest Bai Koroma asked the country to stop practicing religious and traditional burial methods that involve the touching and washing of corpses, given that Ebola victims are particularly contagious after they’ve died. “We should stop all traditional practices for now so that we will live to continue to practice them later,” Koroma said.
As of this week, more than 1,800 people have died of Ebola in Sierra Leone alone during the epidemic in West Africa. There have been more than 8,000 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola in the country since the outbreak began, the World Health Organization said on Friday.