Sierra Leone has passed a new law imposing possible jail time for anyone caught hiding an Ebola patient - a common practice that the World Health Organization believes has contributed to a major underestimation of the current outbreak. The new law, passed Friday, imposes prison terms of up to two years for violators, said lawmaker Ansumana Jaiah Kaikai. It now goes for presidential approval.
The amendment is needed at this time taking into account the fact that when the 1960 ordinance was drafted and passed into law, a disease such as Ebola did not exist.
Justice Minister Frank Kargbo
Under-reporting of Ebola cases has been a problem particularly in Liberia and Sierra Leone, currently the two countries hardest hit by the virus. Nigeria, the fourth country affected, has reported 14 cases of the disease. Fear, stigma and denial have led many families to hide their infected loved ones from health officials. In other instances, patients have been forcibly removed from treatment facilities and isolation centres, creating the risk of the disease’s further spread.