(Text from an email from the Holts in Sierra Leone)
(11/09/2014) We haven’t heard if there’s going to be the nationwide restriction we heard rumored during the week. The pictures of the burial Timothy took. I thought I’d send them to you so you could get an idea how the procedure is carried out. It takes a very long time to accomplish. The doffing of the PPE is slow but it is so important not to touch any part of it with your skin. They spray at every step and then bury the PPE in the same hole with the corpse. The boy [in our village] who was living in the same house as the man who died of the virus has tested positive and the house and several other occupants are quarantined. John said he had heard the government has extended by four months the necessary time to turn the corner on the battle against the virus. No mention about the president extending his term in office. The mere mention brings words of war into the conversation. It sounds like most people in the Southern District are not satisfied with APC and they say it’s SLPP’s turn at running the country. I don’t care who it is as long as they don’t hassle us.
(11/12/2014) Things are quiet in Baomahun but the people have short memories. They still don’t see the urgency of the situation and quickly revert to “business as usual”. Guess it works for them.
As far as the burial photos are concerned, there’s not much more to add. The photos sent are definitely of a suspected case but don’t know the criteria for making that judgment. The two confirmed cases (one of which is dead already) were quickly moved out of town so that shows me they’re making an effort to keep infected people away from the population. The three quarantined houses are for the most part respecting the quarantine – don’t know how it’s enforced or if it’s just an honor system. The mining company is providing food for those under quarantine.
This is new information. There’s a country wide ban on any burials. ALL must be buried by an approved burial team with all the same precautions of a confirmed Ebola death. A little over the top but I guess it’s their best way to deal with it. They have no real way of assurance that there’s no contamination especially in rural areas. Plus, as recent news article sent your way indicate, the government is coming under increasing criticism for its handling of the outbreak. This, like the lockdown, at least makes it look like they’re doing something.
Now about this criticism. The journalist who has been jailed, and likely others, has been very outspoken about the reporting of cases saying that the numbers are far higher than the government is reporting. I heartily agree with that and when one overlays that with the government imposed ban on reporting cholera cases as well as deaths back in 2012 during a serious outbreak one must think, hmmm, is this a repeat of that? That was an election year and the now incumbent president wanted to win his second, and final, 5 year term. These thoughts kind of gelled last night after sending out the emails. During that cholera epidemic, you might recall, the government hoarded doxycycline making it completely unavailable to any medical facilities. Just a hint of things to come here? Probably. Take good notes Boss.
One final thought. Early on Sierra Leone was the Ebola capital of the world and somehow that stigma got quickly shifted to Liberia. My thought all along has been that the numbers didn’t actually shift but just the reporting of the numbers. This incident with the journalist would bolster that view. I truly believe that the numbers are wrong – intentionally.