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Sierra Leone declares curfew amid third virus wave

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Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio arrives to address the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio late Thursday announced a raft of anti-coronavirus measures, including a nationwide curfew and a ban on large gatherings, to help the West African state cope with a third wave of Covid.

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An 11pm-5am curfew will apply across the country from Monday, Bio announced in a nationwide address.

Worshipping in churches or mosques will be suspended for one month starting from Friday, bars and restaurants will close after 9:00 pm and social gatherings of more than 50 people are also been banned.

“We believe we must take urgent and necessary steps to stem this third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Bio said.

Sierra Leone’s infection rate is far below that in the West, having recorded 5,652 cases since March last year, including 102 deaths, in a population of 7.5 million.

But cases are rising rapidly. Health workers registered over 1,500 cases between June 1 and Friday, according to official statistics.

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Sierra Leone boasts huge mineral and diamond deposits but is one of the world’s poorest nations, still recovering from decades of war and disease.

The country was hard hit by the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Nearly 4,000 people died in Sierra Leone during the outbreak.

Bio said 72 percent of beds in treatment centres were now occupied and noted that the highly contagious Delta variant had surfaced in the country.

“That variant is easily transmitted and it is very deadly,” he warned.

The fresh restrictions come after the government lifted a similar curfew in late March.

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