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Welcome to today’s press conference.
Today, I will give you update on the overall EVD situation in the country,speak on the launch of Project Shield for Ebola survivors, the implementation of the Safe and Dignified Burial (SDB) policy in the Western Area, and what actions we have taken against those who have attempted to ignore the SDB policy.
The overall EVD situation in the country remains encouraging, with no EVD positive case recorded in the country for the third consecutive week, no patient admitted for Ebola in Ebola treatment centres, and no persons in quarantine homes across the country. Both Bombali and Kambia have gone for 23 and 27 consecutive days respectively without recording a case, thereby completing the first EVD incubation cycle. I am hopeful that the second incubation cycle for those two districts will not be different from the first.
The remaining 12 districts have all gone more than 42 days with no recorded case, and like last week, 8 of the 12 districts have gone more than 100 days without recording cases. I am also pleased to confirm that today is the 11th day of our national countdown to 0+42.
I must commend all of us for these achievements and progress that we have made together in our fight to end this outbreak. We must still be careful to not let strong emotions overrule the science that has helped us come very close to defeating this wicked virus.
The 783 people who were being monitored in Robuyah village, Bombali District, completed their 21 day quarantine over the weekend, and they were discharged on Monday. This is great news for the district and for us here at the NERC, as it means that as a country, we are doing all the right things.
Let me state again for those who may still be skeptical about the Bombali case that indeed this was a positive EVD case. The sample was tested in five different laboratories and all gave us the same positive result.
We encourage people to ask questions, we encourage communities and districts to challenge lab results and other aspects relating to the response, but we also ask that people allow science toguide the response and not our emotions. We need science to make the right decisions and take appropriate actions. Emotions could only lead us to making wrong judgments and taking actions that may yield no results. We have come this far together relying on science, let us still rely on science to end this difficult battle together.
Last week, I spoke about all of the right things that we must all continue to do to sustain the countdown to 0+42. I explained how we needed to continue with the safe and dignified burial policy and how touching or washing of deadbodies could reverse all the gains that we have made.
Yesterday, I paid a visit to the cemetery at Waterloo, where most of the burials are currently take place. I am very impressed with the work the burial team pillar is doing in Waterloo, and at this point would like to thank all members of the burial pillar for doing such a great job.
From sprayers to grave diggers, from swabbers to body carriers, to supervisors, cemetery inspectors and monitoring teams: all of them are continuing to work hard to save you,your family, and fellow community members. These folks continue to work hard to save ournation from this wicked virus and we owe them our utmost honor and respect.
Let me however, state how disappointed I am that even where these fine Sierra Leoneans are doing this dangerous job to saveour nation, there are people who are still engaged in acts that will continue to put the lives of the six million Sierra Leoneans at risk.
I am even more angry about reports from Tombo of burial team coming under attack from youths in that community. I have asked the Red Cross and the SLP to expedite the investigation so appropriate action can be taken against those responsible. Let me state here that I’ll personally see to it that those who will be found wanting at the end of the investigation are severely dealt with. No one messes with my Ebola response workers and get away with it.
Last week, five individuals were apprehended in the Western Area for washing dead bodies. These individuals were charged to court, remanded to the Pademba Road prisons after their first appearance before the Magistrate, and each were fined five hundred thousand Leones at their second appearance in court.
I was very clear last week that the time for talking to defaulters is over. It will be action and more action going forward. I hope this court action will serve as a warning to all others, who think they can make it a regular habit to deliberately violate policies thatwill end this outbreak, but only if they are stringently followed.
Last week, I also spoke on survivor issues and how much survivors have contributed and continue to contribute to the response. I spoke about how some EVD survivors have served as social mobilizers, contact tracers, members of the burial team, and as healthcare professionals. In some instances, they bravely returned to work in the very treatment centres in which they became infected.
I will continue to remind you all that as a nation, we have come a long way in the fight,and the end is now in sight. But I recognize and acknowledge that for many of our 4,051 survivors, the journey is only just beginning. There are uncertainties ahead and an unknown future. Survivors continue to face severe challenges of stigmatization, of health complications, loss of livelihood, and psychological issues.
I will never fail to recognize that each and every one of them is a hero. They have shown heroism in overcoming the disease, and a great many of them have shown heroism in contributing to the Ebola response.
It is with these facts about survivors in mind that,on Monday at the Family Kingdom, I launched Project Shield, a programme designed to rapidly deliver some key aspects of the Comprehensive Package for Ebola Survivors. This package is currently being finalized by the Ministries of Health and Sanitation and of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, and will be delivered in collaboration with SLAES (Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors).
Project Shield is a comprehensive programme designed for Ebola survivors that will include the identification and verification of all EVD survivors, issuance of ID Cards to them, and training of survivor advocates to provide individual and peer group support to survivors and their partners.
This national programme will be implemented in phases starting with Bombali, Port Loko, and the Western Area. The pilot of this project has already started in wards 371, 372, 373 and 374 in the Western Area. Rollout to the rest of the Western Area, Port Loko and Bombali will commence soon, and to the rest of the country thereafter.
Those three districts were chosen first because they are the ones which have the most recently discharged survivors.
As the CEO of the NERC, I am committed to ending the EVD outbreak in this country, and I am committed to keeping all Sierra Leoneans safe in our fight against the Ebola Virus disease in this country.
Let me state here boldly that I am equally committed to ensuring that survivors have all the support they need to recover, to rebuild their lives, and to play their part in society. I truly believe that Project SHIELD will be a positive step towards honoring that commitment.
Together we will defeat Ebola.