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 Organization has declared the outbreak a ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern.’ Air France has suspended flights to Sierra Leone and some other airlines have also suspended flights to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
General medical facilities throughout Sierra Leone are currently under severe strain due to the Ebola outbreak, and are unable to provide the same standard of healthcare as in the UK. Dedicated healthcare facilities for Ebola are overwhelmed. Many medical facilities expect to be paid up-front.
If you are a British national you should stay in contact with your employer or host organisation about the support that they can provide to you while you are in the country, or should you 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. You should be aware that the narrow range of commercial flight options and restrictions on travel in the region may make it difficult to leave, particularly at short notice, and you should consider your own plans in this context.
On 30 July, President Koroma declared a State of Public Emergency. Measures include restriction of movement to and from affected areas, with some exemptions for NGO and health workers. You should confirm with your organisation whether you will be exempt from these restrictions. From 7 August, a nationwide ban on public gatherings has been put in place and increased restriction on movement of people and vehicles to the districts of Port Loko, Bombali, Moyamba, Kailahun and Kenema for those not working on the response to the Ebola outbreak.
Further restrictions on travel between districts have been put in place over the Christmas period as well as limitations on Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations. All public gatherings are prohibited, including all public activities around restaurants, nightclubs and the beach areas in the western area. Traders are only allowed to trade from 6am to 6pm Mondays to Fridays and from 6am to noon on Saturdays.
The government has introduced new protocols for arriving and departing passengers at Lungi International airport. As of 22 December the Kissy ferry has temporarily ceased operations.
Sporadic and spontaneous demonstrations and local disturbances related to the Ebola outbreak and collection of bodies have been reported across Sierra Leone, the most recent in Kono on 21 October. You should avoid crowds and demonstrations and familiarise yourself with the measures set out in the State of Public Emergency.
For further details about this outbreak of Ebola, see the World Health Organization website, and this map showing the affected areas. The Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation is also providing regular updates on the outbreak on its Facebook page.
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:
- avoid contact with symptomatic patients and their bodily fluids
- avoid contact with corpses and/or bodily fluids from deceased patients.
- avoid close contact with live or dead wild animals
- avoid consumption of “bush meat”
- practice safe sex
- follow strict hand washing routines
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.
Anybody concerned that they might have been exposed to, or showing symptoms of Ebola should seek immediate medical advice. If you’re in the UK call NHS on 111.
Most visits to Sierra Leone are incident free but petty crime is present with occasional reports of associated violence. Incidents have been reported in the central commercial district, Lumley Beach, Aberdeen and eastern areas of Freetown. See Crime
Road conditions are variable. Driving conditions can deteriorate during the rainy season (May to October). Take extra care. See Local Travel
Consider carefully the various transfer options between the international airport at Lungi and Freetown, especially if you plan to arrive at night. See Local Travel
Strong currents exist at some beaches. Drownings have occurred. There are no lifeguards at beaches.
There is a low threat from terrorism. See Terrorism
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before you travel.