Sierra Leone has quarantined more than 1 million people in the largest lockdown in west Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak
Three new districts and 12 tribal chiefdoms have been restricted with immediate affect after a lockdown last week helped health officials identify challenging areas.
“The isolation of districts and chiefdoms will definitely pose great difficulty but the lives of everyone and the survival of our country takes precedence over these difficulties,” president Ernest Bai Koroma said.
“These are trying moments for everyone in the country.”
The northern districts of Port Loko and Bombali are to be closed off along with the southern district of Moyamba – effectively sealing off about 1.2 million people.
Only health workers and people delivering essential items can move within the new quarantine zones.
The worst ever outbreak of Ebola has killed almost 3,000 people in West Africa, including nearly 600 in Sierra Leone.
The World Health Organisation warned the number of cases could triple unless more was done.
Obama says world not moving fast enough
Its call was backed by US president Barack Obama, who told a crisis meeting at the United Nations that world powers were “not moving fast enough”.
Mr Obama has already dispatched 3,000 troops to Liberia to set up facilities and form training teams to help treat Ebola victims.
Congress has also approved the use of money leftover from the Afghanistan war to begin funding the president’s $US1 billion request to help fight the outbreak.
But Mr Obama warned other nations the US did not have the capacity to fight the epidemic on its own.
“I hope that I’ve properly communicated a sense of urgency here,” he said.
“Do not stand by thinking that because of something that we’ve done that it’s taken care of because of what we’ve done. It’s not.
“Everyone has the best of intentions but there is still a significant gap between where we are and where we need to be.”
The UN meeting was called by secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to ramp up the international response after the Security Council last week declared the outbreak a threat to world peace and security.
Liberia ‘fighting back’, president says
Liberia is now the country hardest hit by the outbreak. The country says it has secured imports of basic food staples until December, but the disruption caused to its mining sector could trigger a recession next year.
Airlines have suspended flights while expatriate workers have fled.
Liberia’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, told the meeting by video link that her country was facing perhaps its greatest challenge, and while the world had taken some time to adequately respond, “We are fighting back”.
The Canadian government says poor global coordination has bogged down efforts to deliver its Ebola vaccine to Africa.
The experimental vaccine remains in a government laboratory, six weeks after Canada promised to make it available to fight the deadly outbreak.
Foreign minsters of the G7 group of countries pledged to keep open air and sea links with Ebola-hit countries.
“We warn that although the spread of Ebola must be contained, affected countries must not be isolated,” the group said in a statement.
“We underline the necessity to enhance the ability of the countries concerned to fight the disease themselves.”