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Ebola Crisis Puts Sierra Leone on Three-Day National Lockdown

This is a Sunday, July 27, 2014 file photo of medical personnel inside a clinic taking care of Ebola patients in the Kenema District on the outskirts of Kenema, Sierra Leone. On July 23 the doctor in charge of battling Sierra Leone's current Ebola outbreak became ill with the deadly disease, the country's health minister confirmed. He later died. (AP Photo/ Youssouf Bah, File)
This is a Sunday, July 27, 2014 file photo of medical personnel inside a clinic taking care of Ebola patients in the Kenema District on the outskirts of Kenema, Sierra Leone. On July 23 the doctor in charge of battling Sierra Leone’s current Ebola outbreak became ill with the deadly disease, the country’s health minister confirmed. He later died. (AP Photo/ Youssouf Bah, File)

(Time) – Sierra Leone has begun a three-day nationwide lockdown as it struggles to contend with the Ebola virus’s unprecedented, lethal thrust across West Africa.

Citizens of Sierra Leone, among the nations worst hit by the epidemic, will be banned from leaving their homes from Thursday to Sunday, the Guardian reports. During that time, health workers will travel from house to house, identifying cases, and about 21,000 police and soldiers will be deployed to keep people off the streets.

Officials in Sierra Leone have said that the lockdown would help contain the aggressive Ebola virus, which is spread through contact with bodily fluids. The disease has so far killed 2,453 people across Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, and the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday projected the outbreak’s toll could reach 20,000.

However, some medical officials have drawn parallels between the lockdown and the quarantines imposed elsewhere in West Africa, including in a Liberian slum where similar restrictions fueled riots and have since been lifted. Food shortages and the abandonment of sick neighbors are other possible consequences, they fear.

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