The capital of Sierra Leone was “eerily quiet” on Friday as hundreds of health volunteers spread out across the city and the surrounding area to search for hidden Ebola patients and raise awareness during a three-day lockdown.
Sierra Leone, the country worst-affected by the disease, has reported nearly 12,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths since the epidemic was declared a year ago.
The slums around Freetown are among the hardest-hit areas.
Case numbers have tumbled from a peak of over 500 per week in December to 33 in the week to March 22, with most in the capital and near the northern border with Guinea, which is also still fighting the outbreak.
“There have been reports of complacency with hand-washing and temperature checks, and this is an opportunity to up the sensitisation and to be more proactive looking for cases,” John Fleming, Red Cross emergency health coordinator, told Reuters by telephone from the capital.
In an indication that residents were cooperating with the campaign, Fleming said the streets of the capital’s normally bustling Aberdeen fishing community were “eerily quiet” on Friday morning.
Officials hailed a previous lockdown in September as a success, helping to identify more than 100 new cases, although some charities criticised the campaign as being too heavy-handed.
Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Centre has said that residents will be allowed out for Friday prayers and for Sunday church services.