Saturday, September 20, 2014

forced quarantines and lockdowns jeopardize trust


slate |  The Ebola crisis continues to ravage West Africa as the outbreak shows signs of accelerating. So far, more than 2,600 people have died from the worst outbreak of the virus in history. “The upward epidemic trend continues in the three countries that have widespread and intense transmission—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,” the World Health Organization said on Thursday.

Unable to find, contain, and treat those infected, increasingly desperate Sierra Leone came up with a dramatic solution: Shut down the entire country. The government ordered the country’s population of 6 million people to remain in their homes starting Thursday at midnight through the weekend. “During the lockdown … volunteers will try to identify sick people reluctant or unable to seek treatment,” the Associated Press reports. “Authorities have said they expect to discover hundreds of new cases during the shutdown. Many of those infected have not sought treatment out of fear that hospitals are merely places people go to die. Others have been turned away by centers overwhelmed with patients.”

The international aid group Doctors Without Borders says the nationwide lockdown is counterproductive. “Large-scale coercive measures like forced quarantines and lockdowns are driving people underground and jeopardizing the trust between people and health providers,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement to ABC News. “This is leading to the concealment of cases and is pushing the sick away from health systems.”