One of the three districts of Sierra Leone where new cases of Ebola have been recorded will jail those who break a new emergency by-law designed to prevent the spread of the disease, an official said Sunday.
The District Ebola Response Centre Coordinator, Raymond Kabia said “a high-level stakeholders meeting” on Friday decided that “violators of the by-laws would no longer be fined but will go to jail for six months instead”.
“People caught in sacred burials and washing bodies, transporting sick people in vehicles, traditional healers treating the sick and those hiding sick people in homes will be jailed for six months without the option of fines”, he told local reporters in Port Loko, 74 miles north of the capital.
“We have sacked over ten Section Chiefs and similar number of village headmen in the past and fined them… but people have still not learned the lesson. This time anyone who thinks this is a joke will be playing with fire,” he said.
The official said President Ernest Bai Koroma has ordered all government ministers and lawmakers from the districts affected to go to the areas to help in the operation to stop new infections.
Officials who returned to the capital on Sunday after a two-day assessment tour of Port Loko and Kambia blamed herbalists in the two districts for spreading the virus by secretly treating sick people in the belief that the disease is linked to witchcraft and sorcery.
A total of 1,029 people are under quarantine.
The worst outbreak of Ebola in history began in Sierra Leone in October. It has seen nearly 27,500 infections in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea of which more than 11,200 have been fatal, although official data is widely believed to have underestimated the figures.
The numbers of infections has slowed dramatically in recent months.