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Welcome to this special press conference, possibly the last before the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the current outbreak overin our country.Today, I will speak about the overall EVD situation, the situation in Guinea, andSafe and Dignified Burials in the Western Area and the rest of the countryafter November 7. I will also update you on theplanned activities for November 7(D-Day).
Sierra Leone has gone for seven consecutive weeks without recording a positive EVD case and all districts have gone over 42 days without recording Ebola cases.
I am very pleased to inform you all that the current outbreak is just two days from being declared over by the World Health Organization. This indeed is a remarkable achievement for all of us and we must be proud as a nation.
Last week, I informed you all about the current situation in Guinea and some of the steps we have taken to keep our country safe from possible cross infection or transmission from that country.Not only have we intensified our interventions along our borders with Guinea, we have also increased screening measures and established standby isolation centres on both sides of the border.
Experience has taught us to take no chances. Our policy is that of no regrets, so we will make contingencies to be ready for any eventuality. In addition, we are also, in conjunction with our Guinean counterparts, working to restrict movement of people between the two countries for the next few days because of the heightened surveillance and contact tracing activities we are embarking on in that area.
This is NOT a border closure. We are simply taking all necessary steps to keep the citizens of our two respective countries, sister nations, safe from this menace so that lives can return to normal for all our peoples.
While we countdown the last few days, the threat of Ebola outbreak to thiscountry remains. The example in Liberia teaches that after declaring the outbreak over once, they were hit with new cases less soon thereafter. Ebola does not go away with a declaration. It goes away by doing what we know works. Vigilance is key. As Guinea continues to record cases, some very close to our borders, we MUST remain vigilant. And continue to work collaboratively with our Guinean counterpart to end the outbreak in Guinea as well.
I want to appeal to you journalists with a special appeal. Ladies and gentlemen of the media, we have walked this journey together. I ask of you, let us refrain from spreading rumors that will create panic among our people. Spreading rumors of a positive case in a certain district when you have no proof is not only infactual, it is mischief. We have gone through this together until this moment. Let us remain responsible and report the facts, more now than ever before.
Now I move on to an important piece of my address. I have been repeatedly asked about what will happen to the Safe and Dignified Burial Policy after November 7. Clearly, the incidence of the disease has gone down so dramatically, that the blanket outbreak approach of Safe and Dignified Burials is no longer warranted.
However, targeted safe and dignified burials will continue only for deaths that are clearly suspicious.Swabbing of all dead bodies will be mandatory across the country to be sure that we do not miss any possible cases should they arise due to risks of resurgence from hidden chains, cross border infections and infections from animals or convalescents.
Standby burial teams will also be maintained in all the districts and the Western Area to conduct safe and dignified burial in the case of suspicious deaths. The burial Pillar is currently working with the Planning and Strategic Communications Directorates to rollout communications on SDB post November 7.
It is no longer news to you all that the WHO has designated November 7 as the day they will declare the current outbreak ended in Sierra Leone. Many of you maybe eager to know what that day will look like.
The NERC hasnot planned an elaborate celebration. A formal ceremony will be held at the Bintumani Conference Centre Aberdeen, where the WHO will deliver the formal declaration.
The occasion will be graced by His Excellency the President, who will give the keynote address. Other invitees includemembers of the international community, government officials, the NERC and religious leaders. Let me use this opportunity to formally invite you members of the press. You have been an integral part of the fight. I want to thank all of you for your patriotism.
We have however, made arrangements with both the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) and the Independent Radio Network (IRN) to have the formal ceremony aired live on all the radio stations across the country and on SLBC – TV.
This is to give every Sierra Leonean across the country the opportunity to be part of this important day in our country’s history.
As I close my press conference for today, Let me remind you all that the fight is not over yet. Until we go for more than 90 days without a case here and in neighbouring Guinea. We are working not only to zero but a RESILIENT zero that will stand the test of time. The journey continues. Despite the joy, dropping our guard now will be folly after what we have gone through till now. I cannot stress that enough. Let us not be blinded by our desire to celebrate when the enemy may still be hidden.
Let me one again express my sincere appreciation to you the members of the press. I will forever remain grateful to you for the support you have given me and my team throughout this fight. A big thank you to all of you and let me reiterate that this marriage we have started will continue.
The President has ordered the NERC to continue operations until 31st December. This will allow us to responsibly hand over our responsibilities to the Office of National Security and the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare.
There is still a lot of work to do in the transition and we must remain vigilant until then. Ebola has tested us to the limit. Thousands of our people have been infected and died, but we did not crumble as a nation. We stood up and we stood firm in the face of the enemy.
Let us continue along this resolute path and be ready for anymore challenges.
God bless you all and God bless our country. Thank you.