Sierra Leone in Ebola lockdown

Sierra Leone is under a three-day lock down to alleviate the spread of Ebola Photo: BBC video grab

The authorities in Sierra Leone are enforcing a three-day lockdown to curb the spread of Ebola, with the entire population ordered to stay at home.

There is a two-hour exemption on Friday to allow Muslim prayers and a five-hour window for Christians on Sunday.

Volunteers are going door-to-door, looking for people with signs of the disease and reminding others how to stay safe.

Dozens of new cases are still being reported in Sierra Leone every week.

However, the three West African countries worst affected by Ebola - Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea - have seen a steep reduction in infections in recent weeks.

Journalist Umaru Fofana in Freetown says the normally bustling streets in the east end of the capital Freetown was deserted first thing in the morning, except for a few children fetching water in jerry cans.

Volunteers are going house-to-house

The lockdown ends at 1800 GMT on Sunday.

This is the second time Sierra Leone has enforced a national lockdown, asking its population of about six million people to stay home.

The last one, in September, was criticised by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) which said it would force people underground and not help contain the virus.

Food was distributed to some of those who needed it

The nationwide lockdown was needed because "complacency has set in - people seemed to relax", the spokesperson for Sierra Leone's National Ebola Response Centre, Sidi Yahya Tunis, told the BBC's Newsday programme.

"We want to re-energise people's commitment to the fight against Ebola," he said.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have set a target of having no new cases by the middle of next month.

The outbreak has killed more than 10,000 people in the three countries over the past year.



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