By Abdulrahman Koroma
As Sierra Leone possibly will be declared free from Ebola by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Saturday 7th November 2015, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ebola Response Center (NERC), Rtd. Major Alfred Paolo Conteh emotionally shed tears while making his final statements to Journalist at a Press Conference on Wednesday 4th November 2015 before the declaration date.
The NERC Boss told Sierra Leoneans that Ebola does not go away with a declaration but that they need to stay vigilance and do what can entirely kick the virus out of the country.
He added that experience has taught Sierra Leoneans not to take chances and the threat of Ebola outbreak in the country still remains.
He pointed out that the example in Liberia where the outbreak hit them after they have been declared from Ebola and that it teaches Sierra Leoneans that they must not lower their guards after the declaration.
Paolo Conteh explained that NERC has intensified the border with Guinea for any further intervention along those borders and also increased screening measures and standby isolation centers at the border areas since Guinea is still facing difficulty with the Ebola Virus.
He pointed out that the country will be working in conjunction with their Guinean Counterparts to restrict movement of people between the two countries in the next few days because of the heightened surveillance and contact tracing activities they will be embarking on in that area.
He maintains that the measure which has been put in place is not a border closure. He said as Guinea continues to record more cases, Sierra Leone needs to stay vigilant and also work with Guinea to end the outbreak in there as well.
“I want to appeal to you Journalists. We have walked this Journey together. I ask of you, let us refrain from spreading rumors that will create panics among our people,” he said.
He further stated that, if rumors are been spread of a positive case in a certain district when there are no proof is not only in factual, but also mischief.
He advised journalist to remain responsible and report the fact than ever. He expressed his thanks and appreciation to the members of the Press and said he will forever be grateful to them for the support they offer to him and his team throughout the course.
“Let me reiterate that this marriage we have started will continue,” he maintained.
He further mentioned that, until Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea go 90 days till then the fight is not yet over.
He said the two sister countries are working not only to zero but a resilient zero that will stand the test of time.
He added that despite the joy, the Journey still continues and advised that dropping the guards now will not be good after the success the country has made so far.
“Let us not be blinded by our desire to celebrate when the enemy is still hidden,” he said.
Paolo Conteh said safe and dignified burials will continue only for deaths that are clearly suspicious and swapping of all dead bodies will be mandatory across the country to be sure that they do not miss possible cases, should they arise.
He confirmed that 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 NERC Boss said the President has ordered the National Ebola Response Center (NERC) to continue operations until 31st December 2015.
He said this will allow the NERC to responsibly hand over their responsibilities to the Office of National Security (ONS) and the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare.
He noted that there is still a lot of work to do in the transition and Sierra Leone must remain vigilant until then and also mentioned that Ebola has tested the country to the limit.
“Thousands of People have been infected and died, but we did 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 any more challenges,” NERC CEO affirmed.