FREETOWN - Sierra Leone leader Ernest Bai Koroma declared a state of emergency on Thursday and cancelled a planned trip to the US-Africa summit as the country struggled to contain the deadly Ebola epidemic.
"Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary measures. The Ebola virus disease poses an extraordinary challenge to our nation," the president said in a televised address to the nation.
"Consequently... I hereby proclaim a state of public emergency to enable us to take a more robust approach to deal with the Ebola outbreak."
Koroma said he had cancelled a trip to a summit of around 50 African leaders in Washington DC next week.
He announced he would travel to neighbouring Guinea for a regional summit on the crisis gathering the heads of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast.
Koroma announced a raft of measures to combat the disease, as part of the state of emergency, including quarantining Ebola-hit areas and deploying security forces to protect medical workers.
He banned all public meetings not related to Ebola and launched house-to-house searches to trace and quarantine suspected patients in Ebola hot-spots.
He cancelled foreign trips by ministers and other government officials, exempting only "absolutely essential engagements".
The president said the measures would be in place initially for 60 to 90 days, and would then be reassessed.
He declared Monday August 4 "National Stay at Home Day".
"Fellow citizens, this is a national fight, and it behoves all of us to stand together to promote the truth about this deadly disease. Ebola is real, and we must stop its transmission," Koroma said.
The newly established Policy Committee on Migrant Workers and Human Trafficking, chaired by General Thanasak Patimaprakorn, the Chief of Defense Forces and Deputy Chairman of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), is responsible for the implementation of the plan and will work in collaboration with the private sector and international NGOs.
Under the plan outlined out by the NCPO, illegal workers will be given temporary permits to work in Thailand. Once these workers pass the verification process, they will be allowed to apply for permanent work permits by using their passport. This initiative, led under the direction of the Ministry of Interior, will bring millions of migrant workers out from the shadows and legitimise their legal status.
This effort is part of the Royal Thai Government's plans to end the activities of human traffickers, including corrupt government officials and police, who extort money from people in neighboring countries in exchange for smuggling them into Thailand and delivering them to places where they have been promised jobs. Under the new program, government or police officers who fail to carry out their duties or are involved in illegal activities will face swift punishment, which could include both disciplinary and criminal proceedings.