By Allieu S. Tunkara
Last Monday was a day of ecstasy and elation in Sierra Leone especially in the nations’ capital, Freetown when Covid-19 curfew was temporally lifted.
In the face of a spiralling deadly virus, Freetown is the hardest-hit since it is the busiest.
When Corona Virus otherwise known as Covid-19 struck, movement of persons between the hours of 9pm and 6am in any part of Sierra Leone was restricted.
After much advocacy backed up with advice from the National Covid-19 Response Centre (NACOVERC), a body leading the fight against the virus, curfew hours were extended from 9am to 11pm.
The restriction was to cut the chain of transmission by creating awareness among the public that a deadly virus has struck.
Other strong measures also followed especially the inter-district lockdown which confined people in their districts with few exceptions.
The Inter-District lockdown also badly affected life in the city as it depends on food stuff from the provinces.
Opening up of the dustricts signalled a new hope in Sierra Leone that government is prevailing over the fight against the virus.
Freetown again was the happiest considering its dependence on the provinces for better life in the city.
But, unlocking the lockdown was not enough, as the curfew continues to hit hard on the people.
Most Sierra Leoneans have insistently called on government to reconsider their actions on lifting the curfew.
It was quite difficult for government to accept and respond to the call of the masses in light of an absence of an advice from the requisite body, the NACOVERC.
As Covid-19 cases dwindle, government announced lifting of the curfew so that life can get back to a bit normal.
A commercial motorist, Ibrahim Kamara [Okada Rider] plying within Allen Town and Calaba Town community told Nightwatch how extremely happy he was when the curfew was lifted.
“As okada riders, we do our business most times at the hours the curfew starts. That means our income was reduced with a curfew in place. But, we put up with situation because no other option exists,” Kamara said.
He said, they were not pleased with the curfew as it negatively impact on their finances.
The situation at that time compelled them to call on government to reconsider its action, and take the necessary steps.
Now a big step has been taken and the people have started to breathe a sigh of relief.
Kamara in a striking comparison between what is happening now to what was prevailing during curfew explained that he made a reasonable sums of money before curfew was pronounced.
He however calls on government to maintain the status quo citing the benefit they would receive if situation remain as it is.
The call to permanently maintain the status quo may not be unconnected to what the Okada trade brings.
“Now I make over a Le100, 000 a day since the curfew has been lifted,” he told Nightwatch, “compared to a little over Le50, 000 I made during the curfew period.”
Kamara’s concerns have been shared with by another petty trader, Adama Kamara who plies Waterloo-Freetown Highway daily to purchase assorted goods to sell in Waterloo.
Most times, she says, she sells her local goods before she buys imported ones for sale in her community.
In the process, she spends several hours in the town and return quite late.
In the process of moving her goods, there is no way she can escape curfew hours.
Most times, she spends the night at police stations to escape flouting the curfew as well as thieves.
She too expressed joy and elation following the temporal nullification of the curfew.
Explaining further, she told this press that she would no longer have worries she hitherto experienced during curfew hours.
“I am no longer afraid of troubles associated with the movement of goods from one place to another since I know there is no more curfew for a month,” she said.
She also called on government to maintain situation as it is so that we do not go back to the curfew period.
A revert to the curfew after the four weeks will, to a large extent, be determined by NACOVERC statistics on Covid-19 incidents.
The pronouncement of a lift on curfew hours has been viewed from different perspectives.
Some Sierra Leoneans said the curfew was lifted owing to pressure from members of the public while others have linked it to the dwindling number of Covid-19 cases.
Whatever perspective one comes from in assessing the cancellation of the curfew, they are bound to arrive at one conclusion: easing economic hardship in Sierra Leone.
In what appears a call to further lessen the burden of economic hardship, most Sierra Leoneans also call on government to consider opening up land borders to ease travelling.
The two Mano River Union countries, Guinea and Liberia have been and still remained Sierra Leone’s key trading partners.
Closure of borders on Sierra Leone by the two countries will definitely affect prices of basic goods in the country.
It happens now, as most traders cannot enter Guinea as usual to transact business.
The current political crisis in Guinea that has resulted into the blockade also worsens an already polarised situation.
As the Guinean situation remains tense, a spill over effect is felt in Sierra Leone as prices of goods continue to rise.
The country’s inflationary trend has always been on double-digit since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus.
The Consumer Price Index Report of 2019 confirms that inflation is at double digit, and fear of more price hikes is high.
The overriding argument in public domain holds that even though Covid-19 rages on, measures to cut down on hardship must be ceaselessly pursued.
It was the need to simultaneously improve the economy alongside fighting Covid-19 that United States and other European countries pursue prudent economic policies for better livelihoods in the face of a Covid-19 devastating effect.
Sierra Leone is known to have recorded over 2,000 cases of Corona Virus, and others are in quarantine facilities battling with the virus.
Government has been commended in many quarters for tackling the virus at its earliest inception making it difficult for the virus to spread fast in the country.
In a similar vein, Professor Karim Bangura a Sierra Leonean lecturer in Howard University in the United States has warned African governments to speedily tackle the virus so that it does not escalate to higher proportions.
Prof Bangura made the statement in a recent interview conducted by Nightwatch via social media.
He based his fears on the grounds that loans and credits will not be forthcoming as developed countries are also affected by the virus.
“African countries must not hope for loans, grants and donations from developed countries, they must act fast to curtail the virus,” he appealed.
Africa he says, is blessed with warm weather which, he says, is an opportunity to successfully combat the virus.
Sierra Leone and other African countries have actually yielded to the call by adopting proactive measures to stop the virus from spreading.
Stopping the virus at an early stage comes with a high cost as the spate of suffering and hardship reigns high in the country.
From time immemorial, successive governments have come and gone, but none has put in place any contingency plan to ease suffering during emergencies.
For decades and centuries, the usual plan has been an unprecedented scale of reliance on foreign aid to solve the country’s problems.
Unlike the Ebola Crisis, the reliance at this moment on the international community is a frail reel.
Countries where the greatest aid is expected are also struck, and they battle it out to fix their economic problems.
It is more dangerous for them as their states are welfare states.
Most European nations have also reverted to lockdowns as there is a recurrence of fresh incidents of Covid-19 cases lately. Needless to say the hope for aid is farcical.
Thus, in the midst of a rolling statistics of Covid-19 cases, measures have to be worked out to improve livelihoods.
It is highly expected that an investment in agriculture would provide the answer, and the jobless youths in the city may pay the price.