Freetown, 31 March 2020 - The Ministry of Health and Sanitation of the Republic of Sierra Leone has reported the country’s first case of COVID-19. Samples tested at the Military 34 Hospital, and two other accredited laboratories to detect the virus, in the capital Freetown turned out positive on the evening of 30 March 2020.
The patient, a 37-year-old Sierra Leonean Male, had travelled to France on 12 March 2020. He returned on 16 March 2020 and was immediately put in mandatory managed quarantine for 14 days. He was tested at the end of his quarantine period when he developed flu-like symptoms that subsequently led to the confirmation as COVID-19.
“We have now shifted from preparedness to response. We must now focus on tracing the people that the patient may have come in contact with to be able to isolate and provide them with medical care,” said Evans Liyosi, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Sierra Leone.
“The coming days and weeks will be crucial. With robust prevention and treatment measures we can stop widespread infections not only in the capital but across the country. We are working with the health authorities and other partners, providing the support needed to adequately tackle the virus,” said Mr Liyosi.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared, WHO has provided technical and material support to countries in Africa. The Organization has supplied personal protective equipment for health workers and other essential equipment for screening and handling suspect cases at airports and other points of entry. Here in Sierra Leone, there have been focused public health and additional interventions instituted to promote prompt case identification and confirmation, protection of frontline health workers and screening of travelers.
While there is still much to learn about COVID-19, people can take actions to prevent the disease through simple, day-to-day measures. These include regular hand washing with soap and water; coughing into a tissue or a bent elbow, being sure to safely dispose of the tissue afterwards; maintaining a social distance, particularly from individuals coughing; avoiding hand shaking, touching the eyes, nose and mouth; and seeking medical attention early if a person develops a fever or cough.