Yesterday evening we spotted a small rainbow high above Freetown which seemed fitting on the eve of the announcement by WHO that Sierra Leone is ebola free after 42 days with no new cases. The mood in Freetown is one of celebration and reflection; celebrating the end of the ebola outbreak, but reflecting on the 3589 people who died of the virus, including 221 health worker of whom 11 were doctors. The President addressed the nation from the official ceremony this morning and cautioned against complacency. Although the outbreak is over, it doesn’t mean that ebola is gone for ever – new cases are still occurring in neighbouring Guinea. He urged the population to continue with health precautions and report all deaths so that swabs can rule out ebola.
The President’s theme was that this is a new beginning for Sierra Leone. A lot remains to be done to improve the healthcare system and strengthen the economy but he thanked the international community for their help in ending the crisis.
In the meantime, the people will celebrate in their own way. The general sense is of relief and joy. Last night a countdown was held at the iconic cotton tree in central Freetown and tonight a candle light parade is planned there. It is wonderful for the country that its ‘quarantine’ status has been removed and the recovery can begin. In the local language Krio, ‘don’ means finish but also indicates a present perfect (something has happened) so, ‘don don’ means it has finished. It’s the best way to sum up today – ebola don don.