Sierra Leone’s president has declared a 12-month public health emergency to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, local media reported Wednesday.
Julius Maada Bio said this is not a lockdown and should not be used as an excuse to hoard goods or hike prices.
The West African country of some 7.5 million people as yet has no registered coronavirus cases, according to World Health Organization figures.
While epidemiologists have warned the coronavirus crisis could extend for many months, most governments worldwide have announced measures that extend for weeks or months, not an entire year.
“The rapid global spread of the coronavirus poses an immense risk to human beings that can lead to major loss of life and can cause socioeconomic disruption in Sierra Leone,” said Bio in a televised speech.
“This situation requires effective measures to prevent, protect, and curtail the spread of the coronavirus disease in Sierra Leone.”
Bio added that his country will continue to deploy the armed forces and police to enforce compliance with all public health directives.
African governments have introduced numerous measures to stem the virus’ spread, including closing schools, imposing travel restrictions, and banning large gatherings.
After emerging in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 170 countries and regions. The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic.
Out of more than 423,000 confirmed cases worldwide, the death toll now stands at almost 19,000, while over 108,000 have recovered.