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Sierra Leone contemplates nationwide shutdown over Ebola
An aide to Sierra Leone's President has said the president was "seriously" contemplating a nationwide shutdown to contain spread of Ebola.

A man walks past a poster raising awareness on the Ebola virus reading "the risk Ebola is still there. Let us apply the protective measures together", on September 2, 2014 in Abidjian, Cote d'Ivoire. AFP PHOTO | ISSOUF SANOGO   

By KEMO CHAM | Africa Review

An aide to Sierra Leone's President has said the president was "seriously" contemplating a nationwide shutdown to contain spread of Ebola.

For weeks now there has been speculation about a planned 21-day nationwide quarantine to prevent sick people from moving around, a situation that has seen the virus spread uncontrollably.

The government had denied that it intended to take such drastic measures to contain the virus but the aide Ben Kargbo, a insider in the government, said Wednesday that President Ernest Bai Koroma was now considering it.

"The decision has not been taken yet, but to stop people from running around, this is very important," he said in an interview.

"If we move to that direction let no one blame the President because he is trying to save lives," he added.

Just a few hundred people across the country are under quarantine and there have been complaints of inadequate supply of food in some areas.

Food shortage is a major concern for the government in case it imposes a nationwide quarantine, said Mr Kargbo, who also heads the media arm of the Presidential Task Force on Ebola.

Sierra Leone continues to record high number of new Ebola infections with statistics showing spread of the virus to previously unaffected regions.

Military

The Western Area of the country, which include the capital, Freetown, and the northern region are seeing some of the fastest rise in cases.

According to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation's Wednesday update, 1,146 cases have been reported and 399 people have died. Over 80 per cent of those who have died are from Kenema and Kailahun districts.

Kenema treatment facility has been overwhelmed by new cases from other parts of the country following the closure of the WHO-run lab in nearby Kailahun,

The military and police have launched a manhunt for an Ebola patient, who ran away from the treatment centre and went into hiding.

The man jumped over the fence of the facility, raising concerns of the effectiveness of security at isolation centers.

Elsewhere in the southern district of Pujenhun, a parliamentary representative has warned that security forces will prevent anyone from entering Sierra Leone from Liberia after Liberian authorities hinted on opening their border.

MP Seedy Yaya Tunis said Sierra Leone had not closed its border but has to resist any entry from Liberia to avoid an influx of infected people.

Liberia unilaterally shut its border in August as it intensified quarantine measures.

In Freetown, nurses at the Connaught Hospital on Tuesday issued an ultimatum to the government before ending a one-day strike.

The strike on Monday was sparked by the death of a nurse who contracted the virus from a patient.

The nurses wanted allowances increment for the risk they face but they also decry lack of personal protective gear.

Just last week, a similar strike was reported in the Kenema hospital.

The government, in a move to end the strike, announced revised payment plan for health as well as non-health workers dealing with Ebola cases.

According to the revised payment arrangement, those in direct daily contact with patients, like those in the treatment centers and burial teams will get $150 weekly allowances.

The lowest payment will be $25.