FREETOWN (AA) – The outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has taken an economic toll on Sierra Leone, especially in the West African country’s capital, Freetown.
“Today, the Freetown City Council is virtually a poor council,” Freetown City Council Mayor Franklyn Bode Gibson told Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview.
“We cannot collect revenue as usual; people will not pay [taxes] any longer,” he lamented.
Mayor Gibson expressed concern over the outbreak’s impact on local tax collection.
“The people who used to pay their city rates and licenses no longer have money to pay,” he said.
In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed 4,818 people worldwide, mostly in West Africa, according to World Health Organization (WHO) figures released on November 5.
A total of 1,070 Ebola deaths have been reported in Sierra Leone alone.
Mayor Gibson said the outbreak had affected revenue-collecting drives in the capital.
“We are economically squeezed,” he complained. “Ebola is affecting the smooth running of the municipality in every aspect.”
Freetown is being estimated to have a population of 1.5 million.
Mayor Gibson added that, in addition to the economic challenges posed to his administration by the prevalence of the virus, the epidemic had also affected citizens’ everyday lives – both inside and outside the capital.
“We have to isolate ourselves because everyone is a suspected Ebola person [i.e., a carrier of the virus],” he told AA. “Ebola has crippled our educational system, the economy, our social lives.”
“It has destroyed our affectionate customs and traditions,” he added, “especially handshaking and burial rights.”
The mayor said he had taken measures to prevent Ebola from entering the capital, but that these had largely failed because it was practically impossible to isolate Freetown from the rest of the country.
“When Ebola was far away in the provinces, we mounted checkpoints to restrict movement into the capital,” he recalled.
“We even attempted to regulate sea transport by banning boats landing in some of the wharves,” added Gibson. “But for some reason, people continued to come to the capital.”
He said infected people from the provinces were being secretly transported at night to the capital, where they were being abandoned by their relatives.
“These sick people interacted with other members of their communities; this is how the disease penetrated the capital,” the mayor explained.
“We’ve buried over 1,000 of our people, our compatriots,” said Gibson. “Every Sierra Leonean should be worried that our compatriots are dying – you don’t know if you’re next in line.”
According to daily figures released by the Health Ministry, Freetown now has the highest number of confirmed Ebola cases, with over 1,400 of the country’s 4,000 confirmed cases having been reported in the capital.
“I pray Ebola does not enter Freetown, because I understand the geography of the municipality, the population density, and how stubborn and lawless the residents are,” said the mayor.
Gibson recently enacted new bylaws aimed at combating the disease, which include, among other things, ensuring that there is less congestion at public parks, markets and other trading centers.
“We cannot sit by and allow Ebola to wipe out our country and generation; we have to do something,” Gibson told AA. “A drastic disease requires drastic treatment.”
“If we have talked to people, educated them, and they still don’t want to listen, we should find means of forcing them to listen and understand using very stringent measures,” the mayor asserted.
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