As at today Thursday 19th March 2020, Three (3) of the Four (4) MRU Member States have registered confirmed cases of the Corona Virus Disease (CoVID-19). We all here in Sierra Leone have listened to the broadcast of His Excellency the President on yesterday, that though Sierra Leone is the only one country in the MRU sub region without a known Corona virus disease case, we must prepare because it is not, if it will come but when it comes how prepared are we.
The MRU encourages all citizens to adhere to the preventive measures especially as it relates to guidelines on movement within and between borders. As per WHO messaging and guide we are all aware that this virus should be seen as more of an ‘’international traveller’’ virus and as such all our international and informal borders within and around the MRU sub regional space must be seriously observed and ordinary people walking and crossing need to be aware of the danger this virus.
Each of our member States have National Health Coordinating Mechanisms in place and they put out guidelines on prevention, containment and mitigation measures and for which we are seeking the total cooperation of all citizens especially in the areas of contact tracing and community involvement. Individual members of small, medium or large households and compounds will need more awareness through local and national media that action is needed by each and every one and it starts with knowledge of the signs and symptoms.
We further want to encourage all to engage in enhanced personal hygiene especially hand washing. It starts with the individual. Watch out for the signs and symptoms and take every action to prevent oneself and help the community or compound to keep it out.
The MRU Secretariat is of the considered view that the Corona Virus Disease 19 does not require us to panic but to rely on credible information which our national public health institutions are providing. All citizens in the sub regional space are expected to listen, read and or view and rely upon and be guided by these regulations to help contain and where possible prevent the spread of the Covid 19.
The MRU joins in solidarity and sympathy with countries outside of the region most especially the Peoples Republic of China, and other Asian countries, Europe and the Americas, most especially the United States of America as well as other Africa countries who have lost valuable citizens to this new strain of the Corona Virus disease.
Over the coming days and weeks, we will be coordinating and seeking urgently needed assistance from development partners to support a sub-regional approach in our effort to arrest the grave and existential threat this virus poses to our national health systems in the MRU space.
We are not unmindful of the vast devastation the Ebola virus disease caused and how this wrecked the socio economic fabric in three of the four countries that we are yet to recover fully nearly five years after. We intend to work in close consultation with national and other regional partners to coordinate support so that this pandemic is brought under control so as to once again we can live peaceful and healthy lives as a community of peoples moving freely in the pursuit of development within sub region.
We are aware that our cultural and traditional ways of life encourage us to bond, shake hands and hugs as well as religious and other social ceremonies witness us gathering in large numbers. In times like these we must adjust some of these socio-cultural habits to minimize the spread of the virus during these critical moments as our health experts have required all communities to do.
We may recall that we fought the Ebola virus disease before and as sub region we won that war wit the implementation of collective strategy. During Ebola we adjusted and stopped shaking hands and hugging as well as avoided multiple social clusters because we learnt then that the virus could be transmitted through close contacts and perspirations.
Today a sneeze or cough are clear symptoms so we need to keep an arms length away from the next person to you on the streets or in the store or any community. It’s the simple everyday things that matter. That is how we can all help our governments to contain the virus.
We will remain engaged with Traditional and Religious Leaders (TRL); Community and Opinion leaders in the major towns and cities as well as the leaders of MRU Joint Border Security and Confidence Building Units for social mobilization against the COVID to get community involved. We will over the coming days and weeks work with the local health teams to arrest, contain, minimize and or prevent the spread of the Corona Covid 19.
In collaboration with the UNDP the MRU will help raised awareness with sms txt messages partner with each member state government and local NGOs through messaging or urgently needed assistance to contain, mitigate and or prevent this pandemic in the sub region.