A controversial lockdown of Sierra Leone begins today with as many as 30000 volunteers expected to go door to door handing out information pamphlets and soap to the estimated 6 million residents of the country who will be confined to their homes for the next 3 days.

Freetown Lockdown

“Freetown” by Magnus Ohman – World66.

The move to keep people in their homes has seen mixed reactions with several groups raising concerns that limitations on freedom of movement could foster a greater distrust of the government or foreign aid organisations in the country. The Government of Sierra Leone has assured the nation that teams will not enter homes but could notify emergency services if they become aware of a potential Ebola threat during their campaign.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has warned that people could be forced underground creating a far larger problem for the country. The Government responded to criticism stating that they were not enforcing a curfew and that citizens would be permitted to leave their homes for essentials including water.

The response on the ground from local leaders has been far more positive with many community members welcoming the strong action from their Government with hopes that progress will be made toward ending the outbreak. It is expected that the operation will uncover several hidden cases and deaths over the next 3 days with an expected adjustment to official figures predicted to be as high as 20% after the operation.

The lockdown has resulted in a rush on retailers with residents stockpiling essential goods and items amid fears that it may be extended beyond the scheduled 3 day period. Serious traffic congestion has also be indicated by several reports in the hours leading up to the lockdown.