23 August 2014

Sierra Leone: Hiding Ebola Patients Now a Crime in Sierra Leone

Anyone convicted of hiding Ebola victims in Sierra Leone will go to jail for two years, after parliament passed legislation making the act a crime. The government says it's trying to prevent the virus from spreading.

Sierra Leonean lawmakers said the law, which passed parliament on Friday, was required because some families had resisted seeking medical treatment for their relatives.

The law is an update to Sierra Leone's 1960 Public Health Act, and includes prison terms of two years for violators.

"The amendment is needed at this time taking into account that when the 1960 ordinance was drafted and passed into law, a disease such as Ebola did not exist," said Justice Minister Frank Kargbo.

The amendment now must be signed into law by President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Hard hit

Sierra Leone has been hit hard by the Ebola outbreak, the deadliest ever, infecting at least 910 people and killing at least 392 since March.

A total of 2,615 infections and 1,427 deaths have been recorded across West Africa, including in Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria. Liberia has seen the most deaths, at more than 600, with the disease confirmed in all regions of the country.

The UN health agency said on Friday that the overall death toll has been underestimated because some families are uncooperative with authorities and hide patients, fearing the stigma that comes with a positive diagnosis.

Ivorian border closures, Philippines repatriates UN troops

The Ivory Coast announced it had closed its borders with Guinea and Liberia to protect its citizens. It follows similar moves earlier in the week by Senegal, which shut down its border with Guinea. South Africa announced it would screen screen travelers returning from the countries hit by the virus.

Ivory Coast Prime Minister Daniel Kaban Duncan said the closure was implemented on Friday "to protect all people, including foreigners, living on Ivorian territory."

On Saturday, the Philippines announced it would repatriate over 100 Filipino UN troops serving in Liberia because of the increasing health risk.

Officials from the World Health Organization estimate it will be six to nine months before the epidemic is brought to a halt.

jr/glb (AFP, AP)

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