FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Although Ebola cases are declining in West Africa, Sierra Leone officials are worried that the president's decision to lift travel restrictions may re-ignite the spread of the deadly disease.
President Ernest Bai Koroma two weeks ago announced a relaxation of travel restrictions to support economic activity. Some officials agreed that the closure of roads hurt the economy. Others felt it was too soon.
"It was slightly too early," Freetown Mayor Franklyn Bode Gibson said Tuesday. "We do not know who is safe and who is not," and a second outbreak of the disease would be distrastrous.
Gibson said Tuesday he will call for a meeting this week with the National Ebola Response Center to register his disappointment about the re-opening of district roads.
The chairman of the eastern Kenema District, Dr. Senesie Mansaray, said the move to lift travel restrictions is "a serious blunder at this point in time." He said that Bai Koroma should have waited until the end of February or March, while observing the trend of the spread of the virus, to put more mechanisms in place before lifting bans. The Kenema district recorded no new cases in the latest government figures.
The three most affected countries — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia — appear to be making strides against the Ebola epidemic first identified last March. The U.N. health agency said last week that the countries had reported fewer than 100 cases in the past week, for the first time since June. Nearly 9,000 people have died from the virus spread through contact with bodily fluids.
Fears are "legitimate" according to opposition party publicity secretary Tamba Samba, but he added that the closure of the roads had hurt the economy.
Ibrahim Bundu, the leader of the governing All People's Congress, said on a radio discussion that the decision to lift the travel ban was made to "boost the country's Ebola defunct economy."
Koroma has set a goal of zero cases by the end of March.