Sierra Leone’s president declared a state of emergency Thursday over the largest outbreak of the Ebola virus in history, drafting in security forces and placing restrictions on movement to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
Ebola has infected more than 1,200 people in three West African countries, and killed close to 700 of them. The outbreak received extra media attention when two Americans became infected, and a Liberian man with family in the United States died.
The Peace Corps pulled more than 300 volunteers out of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea on Wednesday. Two Peace Corps volunteers are under quarantine outside the U.S. after having contact with a person who later died of the Ebola virus, a State Department official told The Associated Press. The volunteers are not symptomatic and are currently isolated under observation.
President Ernest Bai Koroma said Thursday that when faced with extraordinary challenges, extraordinary measures are needed.
“Sierra Leone is in a great fight, he said. “Failure is not an option.”
Koroma said battling the disease will honor those who’ve died, including Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, who led the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone until his recent death.
“Ebola is real, and we must stop its transmission,” the president said.
The State of Public Emergency will allow the country to take “a more robust approach,” including calling up members of the security forces to protect health officials and quarantine epicenters.
“The disease is beyond the scope of any one country, or community to defeat,” he said in a statement, adding that he has canceled a planned trip to Washington for a U.S.-Africa summit next week. “Its social, economic, psychological and security implications require scaling up measures at international, national, inter-agency and community levels.”
He said that house-to-house searches would be implemented to trace Ebola victims and quarantine them. He also said that new protocols had been established for passengers arriving and departing Lungi International Airport outside Freetown, but did not provide further details.