Sierra Leone: One-month nationwide curfew imposed to control the new COVID variant

Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio on Thursday announced a one-month nationwide curfew in Sierra Leone to control spread of Covid-19 effective Monday 5th July 2021 from 11 pm to 5 am daily.

a) Congregational worship in churches, mosques and other religious places are suspended for a period of one month effective Friday 2nd July 2021.

b) Restaurants and bars are encouraged to use takeaway services and they shall close at 9 pm daily.

c) Attendance at funerals, weddings, and other social events shall be limited to no more than fifty persons.

d) Drivers and passengers are strongly urged to get their COVID-19 vaccination prior to all traveling from one town to the other.

Bio: not taking chances

The president said all prior NACOVERC measures and advisories on proper face-masking, handwashing, and social distancing remain in full force and that NaCOVERC will enforce these measures strictly.

“I, therefore, call on all citizens to cooperate with these interventions. These measures will be reviewed from time to time based on scientific data and expert advice.

“COVID-19 vaccines that are available in this country are safe and efficacious. They have been approved by our Pharmacy Board and the World Health Organisation. I, senior members of Government, over a hundred thousand citizens have been fully vaccinated. This vaccine will protect you against COVID-19 and protect your life. I, therefore, strongly urge every eligible citizen to take the free COVID-19 vaccines that are widely available throughout the country.”

All prior NACOVERC measures and advisories on proper face-masking, handwashing, and social distancing remain in full force and that NaCOVERC will enforce these measures strictly.

The president pointed out that together as a nation, and in peace, the country has coped with financial and social constraints, restrictions on movement, and the general global uncertainties and anxieties caused by the pandemic.

 “We did not renew the state of emergency once it elapsed. We eased restrictions on worship and travel and completely lifted the curfew. We did so then based on our assessment of COVID-19 infections.

 “So far, we have kept our children in schools and colleges at all levels; kept hospitals and all Government offices open; kept public services running; kept congregational worship centers open, kept businesses open; and, supported the most vulnerable of our citizens throughout this period. Our Quick Action Economic Recovery Programme has mitigated the impact of the pandemic and maintained our economy on an even keel.

 “All Covid-19 emergency response pillars from the national to district levels have remained active. All our policies as a Government have been well-thought-out to minimize the economic and other burdens of the pandemic, to save lives, and to protect livelihoods”.

The president said international partners and institutions have unreservedly praised the government’s competent handling of the first and second waves of the pandemic as the fatality ratios at under 3%, but noted that according to the World Health Organisation, the third wave of COVID-19 may impact the country and the Delta variant has been recently detected in Sierra Leone. “That variant is easily transmitted and it is very deadly.”

 He said people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last few weeks with more people hospitalized and 72% of beds in treatment and care centers already occupied.

 “We have assessed the data. We have carefully examined the patterns of infection. We have closely looked at the trends. We believe we must take urgent and necessary steps to stem this third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Sierra Leone and thus save lives and protect livelihoods,” he said.

Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio Congratulates Leone Stars: Urges Sierra Leoneans to Dream Big

President Julius Maada Bio has congratulated Leone Stars on their 1-0 victory over Benin in the crucial Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in Conakry, Guinea, urging the nation, from his balcony at State House, to draw inspiration from the win to think big.

Striker Kei Kamara, who had always wished for this feat before his retirement, scored the first-half penalty in the nineteenth minute to secure a place for the national team at the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time since 1996.

“We will continue to strive for higher height, no more small dreams. When I promise, I deliver. I promised that I will take Leone Stars again to the continental stage. This did not come to me as a surprise at all. I believe the boys and I have inspired them enough in the same way I have always wanted to inspire this nation.

“We are a football-loving nation, and I am incredibly happy about this. Just as we trust and believe in ourselves, even out of the football field we can also take this nation to the international level,” he said in a short video released after the match.

“Congratulations to Sierra Leone. We are a football-loving nation, and today, our boys have made history. My government is committed to promoting football and other sports disciplines,” president Bio wrote on Twitter.

Football observers have said that the period 1993 to 1996 can be considered a golden era for Sierra Leone football, arguing that no other Leone Stars team had before or afterward achieved the series of results of that period.

Then as Deputy Chairman of the National Provisional Ruling Council, Julius Maada Bio is credited for inspiring the Leone Stars’ squad of that era to win the Amilcar Cabral trophy twice and to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations twice.

ECOWAS Parliament reps pay Courtesy Call on Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio

The First Deputy Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Rt. Honourable Ahmed Idris Wase, who is also the Deputy Speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives, said that they were honoured by the gesture of the President to host the 2021 Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Freetown.

He added that their visit was also in appreciation of his leadership in the ECOWAS region, noting that the humility they saw in the first family of Sierra Leone was very impressive.

“Your Excellency sir, the progress made at the ECOWAS Parliament under the leadership of Rt. Honourable Mohamed Sidi Tunis is reflective of the development we have seen in Sierra Leone. He is a leader of excellence and a team player,” he noted. 

In his brief statement to the visiting ECOWAS lawmakers, President Bio welcomed the delegation to Freetown, noting that the country and its people were very beautiful and hospitable.

“The unity in ECOWAS is a demonstration or manifestation of our intention to work together for the benefit of our region. We have gone through so many challenges. The ECOWAS Parliament is also an intentional structure meant to consolidate our integration. The more we are together, the more we understand one another and feel the pains and needs of others the better it will be for all of us,” he noted. 

President Julius Maada Bio said humility was the hallmark of great leaders, adding that people in the sub-region were the same and that quite a lot needed to be done to gain economic freedom for member states of ECOWAS. 

“Although we celebrate independence, but we are still not independent. We need to do quite a lot on the continent in the true spirit of African brotherhood to be able to have the independence we need and to realise the many things that we have. That is why we need to come together, share knowledge and compare notes to gain economic freedom,” President Bio asserted.

Sierra Leone: President Bio Engages Development Partners on COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout Strategies

President Julius Maada Bio has engaged development partners and the diplomatic community on the successes of Sierra Leone in the fight against COVID-19 and the plan to roll out vaccination throughout the country.

The meeting brought together the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, NaCOVERC, UN Resident Coordinator, European Union, Deputy Head of the United States Embassy, British High Commission, Irish Embassy, Chinese Embassy, Germany Embassy, the World Bank Country Manager, UNICEF Country Representative and WHO Country Representative.

In his welcome statement, Chief Minister Professor David Francis said the second interface and strategic meeting between the government’s COVID-19 response Presidential Task Force and development partners within the DEPAC framework, was timely, adding that they would highlight the successes, challenges, a transition from the COVID-19 Emergency Response to post- emergency recovery and the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio said the meeting was of special importance in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that the country had fought a good fight.

“Some of the major objectives of our fight have been achieved by reducing mortality and also making sure that livelihoods are not compromised,” he assured, emphasising that science and data had always helped them in the fight against COVID-19.

He further stated that development partners were an integral part of the fight against the scourge, adding that the country was entering into an important milestone in the fight by administering the COVID-19 vaccines. He, therefore, said it was necessary that development partners were informed before the administration of those vaccines.

“We have received vaccines from the People’s Republic of China and another set from COVAX. We cannot roll these out without informing you as partners. On behalf of the people of Sierra Leone and myself, I want to thank you for the many challenges that you have to endure with us in our response to COVID. The support that you have given in terms of PPE and many other technical supports. We are very proud of the partnership between us and our donor community in Sierra Leone,” he said.

Giving out an overview on how the Coronavirus vaccines would be rolled out in the country, Dr Tom Sesay said that Sierra Leone had received 296,000 doses in total, of which 200,000 doses were from the People’s Republic of China and 96,000 doses from the COVAX facility.

“There will be a symbolic launch of the vaccines on Monday 15 March 2021 at State House. It will be for high-profile politicians. We are having a conservative target of 150 people on that day.

“It will be followed by a symbolic launch of the vaccines at the Miatta Conference Hall, where we will focus on the Health Care Workers, even though we will be prioritising those that are above 60 years of age. Vaccination for the rest of the country will start on the 22nd of March 2021,” Dr Sesay said.

Highlighting the many successes in the fight against COVID-19 so far, Minister of Defence and Interim Coordinator of NaCOVERC, Brigadier (Rtd.) Kellie Conteh, said before the outbreak in Sierra Leone government had put in place many structures that eventually helped in the fight. He added that President Bio had visited many areas in the country to assess the existing structures and the level of preparedness.

“Up till today, we have 3,932 positive cases of the Coronavirus, 1,639 of that number are from women, representing 41.6%, while 2,293 are male, representing 58.4% of the total positive cases. Western Area Urban remains the epicentre for infection in the country with 2,244 cases recorded so far.

“We have trained point-of-entry personnel on Coronavirus case detection across all our border entering points, provided a strategic plan for the response, including a transition plan. We are very much pleased with the laboratory successes because we started with three and today we have six functional labs across the country,” he stated.

The NaCOVERC boss also noted that when the virus entered the country in March 2020, they were testing at 100 per day, saying that they had now expanded the number of testing to 1,000 per day.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Dr Babatunde Ahonsi, thanked the President and the people of Sierra Leone for the opportunity to be a part of the dialogue on the cluster of health issues. He congratulated the country for the success so far achieved in dealing with the fight against Coronavirus.

“Recovering from COVID-19, in our view, is part and parcel of advancing Agenda 2034 Sustainable Development and the progress that can be very rapidly made in achieving the target within the National Development Plan. We still have work to do in terms of risk information and social mobilisation,” he noted.

He encouraged the government to vaccinate a large proportion of the population and encouraged Sierra Leoneans to continue to observe social distancing, hand washing and the use of facemasks.

“United Nations stands ready to continue to work with the Ministry of Health and NaCOVERC and other partners to ensure Sierra Leone is able to put Coronavirus behind us and, in the process of doing that, strengthen the health system to deal with future health emergencies and very quickly return to the path of sustainable national development,” he concluded.

Sierra Leone: President Bio visits youth skills training programme

Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio visited a youth skills training programme targeting about 1,540 young people learning road construction at the Bandajuma-Liberia border road project funded by the European Union, EU.

He thanked partners for this possible, among them, the EU Ambassador, Tom Vens, the head of National Authorising Office, Ambrose James, the National Youth Commissioner, Ngolo Katta and the construction company, CSE, for engaging able-bodied young men and women in the Pujehun District, southern Sierra Leone.

At Malema 2, en route to Jendema, President Bio addressed the youth and challenged them to form a ready workforce to work on future road construction projects in the country, adding: “Ours is a human capital development government. Therefore, people should be at the center of everything that we do”.

Commissioner Katta said the project would continue to help the young people with various skills in road construction, including welding, masonry, carpentry, steel bending, heavy-duty machine operators. He emphasised that the project separately targeted those community youths with no qualification and graduate youths who required hands-on training as engineers. 

He added that most importantly, the project also provides stipends to keep them right through the training period and thanked all partners, including the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Youth Affairs, Ministry of Tertiary and Higher Education, Sierra Leone Roads Authority, Sierra Leone Institute of Engineers, Sierra Leone Local Content Agency and the National Council for Technical Vocational and other Academic Awards.

The EU Ambassador expressed excitement at progress on the Bandajuma to Liberia road project, adding that about 80% of the 100-kilometer highway was already completed. 

He remarked: “What a difference for Sierra Leone and the people along the 4,500-kilometre Trans-West African Coastal Highway from Nouakchott to Lagos”, a transnational highway project to link 12 West African coastal nations, from Mauritania in the north-west of the region to Nigeria in the east, with feeder roads already existing to two landlocked countries, Mali and Burkina Faso.

Sierra Leone president engages Guinean authorities on the Yenga stalemate

A Guinean government delegation on Monday met with Sierra Leone officials amidst growing concerns over closure of the border at Kambia, and increased instances of incursions by Guinean troops in Yenga, east of Sierra Leone.

The visit comes almost two weeks after President Bio sent a delegation to Conakry to engage President Conde on the border closure at Kambia with increased instances of incursions by Guinean troops in the Yenga area and 3 weeks after he raised the issue with the 58th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.

Guinean troops entered Yenga more than a decade ago to help the Sierra Leonean army fight the rebels. In 2005, Sierra Leone and Guinea signed an agreement confirming Yenga – a tiny town on the banks of the Makona River – belonged to Sierra Leone.

However, Guinean troops have remained in the town.

The Guinean delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Guineans Abroad, Dr Ibrahim Khalil Kaba, has today conveyed a letter from Guinea’s President Alpha Conde to His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio at State House.  

The team comprising the minister, Dr Kaba, Guinean Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Tejan Conde, and other top-ranking officials from the country’s Ministry of National Defence and Ministry of Security and Civil Protection also held a closed-door meeting with President Bio and his government.

Also present on the part of the government of Sierra Leone were the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Dr Abass Chernor Bundu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nabeela Tunis, Minister of Defence, Brig. (Rtd) Kellie Conteh, Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Swaray and his deputy Mamadi Gobeh Kamara, and the Ambassador to Guinea, Alimamy Bangura. 

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio Inspects Agricultural Machinery at the Agriculture Central Stores

Sierra Leone president Julius Maada Bio has embarked on an inspection tour of the stores of the Ministry of Agriculture that is housing about 2,410 agricultural implements and 410 tractors for the 2021 planting season. 

In the 2018 New Direction Manifesto of the SLPP, the President emphasised that the overall goal of their agricultural policy was to sustain and diversify the production of food, increase investment in agriculture, develop and implement mechanised commercial farming to transform the traditional subsistence agricultural sector. 

At the inspection site, east of Freetown, President Bio said his visit was to show that his government was serious about improving the agricultural sector and providing the enabling environment for farmers to exhibit and discover their true potentials. 

“There has been constant grumbling about the lack of mechanisation in farming over the years. With these machines, it is now left with us as a country to effectively utilise them to increase agricultural productivity for the years ahead,” he noted.

The Acting Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Dr Abubakar Karim, disclosed that all the 410 tractors and 2,410 farming implements would be distributed across the country by next week to ensure that farmers were ready for the 2021 planting season.