The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all but essential travel to Sierra Leone, except for those involved in the direct response to the Ebola outbreak, due to the narrow commercial options for flights and the impact of the outbreak on medical facilities.
An outbreak of Ebola virus has been confirmed in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern.’ Although the number of confirmed new cases in Sierra Leone is declining, Ebola continues to spread within communities. For further details about this outbreak of Ebola, see the World Health Organisation website.
Although separate treatment facilities have been set up to respond to the Ebola outbreak, general medical facilities throughout Sierra Leone are unable to provide the same standard of healthcare as in the UK. Many medical facilities expect to be paid up-front for treatment.
If you travel to Sierra Leone, you should stay in contact with your employer or host organisation about the support that they can provide to you while you’re in the country, and if you should wish to leave. If you travel to Sierra Leone to help in the relief effort, you should make sure that you are contracted to a reputable organisation that is able to provide the support and risk assessments required. Restrictions on travel in the region may make it difficult to leave, particularly at short notice.
There’s a ban on large public gatherings and some restrictions on trading hours. Screening measures are in place for both inbound and outbound travellers at Lunghi International Airport. There are no direct flights, but Brussels and Royal Air Maroc currently operate indirect routes to the UK and Air Cote D’Ivoire operates flights within Africa.
The President of Sierra Leone has announced a national ‘Zero Ebola’ campaign to drive Ebola out of Sierra Leone. As part of the campaign, residents of Sierra Leone were required to stay at home from 6am on Friday 27 March until 6pm on Sunday 29 March. Similar arrangements for staying at home will be implemented on three consecutive Sundays (4, 11 and 18 April). There will be no trading activities across the country during these periods.
If you travel outside the Freetown peninsula, try to complete your travel during the hours of daylight, inform your employers of your whereabouts and make sure they have copies of your itinerary. Ebola screening check points are in operation on the main roads outside of the capital and can be busy.
Although the chances of being infected remain low, there are measures you can take to prevent catching Ebola. You should also follow the health advice issued by the National Travel Health Network and Centre to:
If you’re travelling to the UK within 21 days of a visit to Sierra Leone or any other Ebola-affected country, you should make yourself known to UK Passport Control to be screened. For further details about the screening process, see the Public Health England website.
If you’re concerned that you might have been exposed to Ebola, or are showing symptoms, you should seek immediate medical advice. If you’re in the UK call NHS on 111.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel and make sure your insurance specifically includes medical repatriation.