By Ishmael Sallieu Koroma*
The Civil Society working Group on Epidemics and Natural disasters in Sierra Leone has urged President Julius Maada Bio to bring former President Ernest Bai Koroma in the fight against the coronavirus adding that they strongly believe that this is the set time to talk and the nation looks forward to seeing such camaraderie and exchange of ideas between the two eminent personalities at this difficult time.
The Group made this call on Thursday at a press briefing at the LEGAL LINK headquarters at Fort Street in Freetown, as part of their recommendations on the just concluded three-days Public lock down instituted by the government in a bid to fight the deadly coronavirus in the country.
“We need to see and hear a conversation and exchange of ideas between the former president, Ernest Bai Koroma and the current president, His Excellency, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio on the fight against the coronavirus. We strongly believe that this is the set time to talk and the nation looks forward to seeing such camaraderie and exchange of ideas between the two eminent personalities at this difficult time,’’The civil society Working Group said.
The group said consistent advocacy and sensitization should be carried out by the COVID – 19 Secretariat and other Stakeholders to warn people to desist from jubilation and socializing activities after the end of the any lockdown.
“Transparency should be shown by the EOC to let the people of Sierra Leone know who and who has been affected with the Coronavirus. Hiding the identity of the affected people will undermine effective tracing of primary contacts, isolation and quarantine and even possible support from the public in the process,’’the group recommended.
The Group further recommended that in a state of emergency, the right to confidentiality and privacy is limited and cannot be allowed to jeopardize the public interest adding that the probative value of disclosure far outweighs the prejudicial effect on the person and character of the victim since the whole world is being affected with the Coronavirus.
The Group however underscored some Challenges during the post lock down period stating that there was ppersistent price hike in essential commodities including the public notice dated 8th April 2020 from the Office of the Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman directing new measures including a partial lockdown restricting movement of persons at inter-district levels, and a curfew starting from Saturday 11th April from 9pm to 6am which they said have further created panic amongst the civilian population.
“Many have misconstrued this public notice to mean a 14 days lockdown. Observance of social distancing still remains a big challenge in all regions in Sierra Leone,’’ they observed.
The group further observed that private healthcare centres and pharmacies remained closed, including Bakeries were also closed, and Water and electricity supply was still a challenge in some areas across the country.
“This greatly helped to allay the fears and rumours around a possible extension of a lockdown to 14 days. Normalization of business operations was evident right across the country after the lockdown.’’
The Group further noted that in the event of future Lockdowns , they would recommend that it should be made to end in the morning hours and not at midnight periods adding that it will prevent people coming out at night and possibly engaging in social behaviours that defeats the essence of the lockdown itself.
“Sierra Leone do not have a Defense Production Act which might have compelled private institutions, businesses and MDA’s to produce essential products in situations of emergencies like this. Parliament should therefore consider the passing of such a legislation going forward like is the case in many nations across the world. However, in the interim, Government should ensure that the military, the police and private tailoring businesses embark on massive production of PPE’s and masks for healthcare workers and the general public should the worse happen,’’
The Group praised His Excellency’s proactive step in calling a press conference at State House to inform the apprehensive population as regards the next steps government intends to undertake in response to COVID 19 adding that vital information was also conveyed to the public at the press briefing.
The Civil Society working Group on Epidemics and Natural disasters in Sierra Leone comprises about Forty (40) notably Citizens Advocacy Network (CAN) , Centre For Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Campaign for Good Governance to name but a few.