Sierra Leone vice-president places himself in Ebola quarantine

A health worker wearing protective gear attends to a newly admitted suspected Ebola patient in a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in the town of Koidu, in Eastern Sierra Leone in this Dec 19, 2014 file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A health worker wearing protective gear attends to a newly admitted suspected Ebola patient in a quarantine zone at a Red Cross facility in the town of Koidu, in Eastern Sierra Leone in this Dec 19, 2014 file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

FREETOWN (REUTERS) - Sierra Leone Vice-President Samuel Sam-Sumana said on Saturday that he had placed himself in a 21-day quarantine after one of his bodyguards died of Ebola amid a worrying recent surge in new infections in the West African nation.

Cases of Ebola, which has killed nearly 10,000 people in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea during a year-long epidemic, have fallen off sharply in recent weeks.

Of 99 new confirmed Ebola cases in the region during the week to Feb 22, however, 63 were in Sierra Leone according to the World Health Organisation's weekly report.

Sam-Sumana's bodyguard John Koroma died early this week.

"I have decided to be put under quarantine because I do not want to take chances and I want to lead by example," the vice-president told Reuters.

"I am very well and showing no signs of illness."

Sam-Sumana said his entire staff would also be placed under observation and anyone showing symptoms of the disease would be tested.

The vice-president is the country's first senior government figure to subject himself to a voluntary quarantine.

However, officials in neighbouring Liberia, including the chief medical officer and transport minister, were placed under observation late last year.

Faced with a wave of new infections, particularly in the capital Freetown and some districts in the north, the government reintroduced a number of restrictions that had been lifted earlier this year as the epidemic appeared to ease.

A statement from President Ernest Bai Koroma's office late on Friday ordered public transport operators to reduce capacity by 25 per cent to limit physical contact between passengers.

The government also placed a night-time curfew on unloading goods from commercial vehicles and limited the movements of water transport.