Sierra Leone, battling a deadly outbreak of Ebola, passed a law on Friday that will see anyone harbouring a victim of the disease facing a two-year jail term.
The attorney general announced the new measure as a top parliamentarian lashed out at neighbouring countries for failing to do more to help resolve the crisis.
Sierra Leone has been one of the hardest hit by the epidemic, with 374 deaths and 907 cases since the outbreak began.
“A maximum of two years jail term will be imposed on anyone caught hiding somebody who is believed to be infected with the deadly Ebola disease,” Attorney General Frank Kargbo said after introducing the bill into parliament.
With tensions over the outbreak running high, the majority leader of the house, Ibrahim Bundu, criticised neighbouring countries that he said had abandoned Sierra Leone.
“We are appalled by the slow pace of response by some of our development partners and the abandonment and isolation from those we viewed and believed to be our biggest friends at sub-regional, regional and global levels,” he said in a statement.
He called the cancellation of flights and closing of borders to contain the virus “ugly developments” that were leading to further isolation and causing businesses to shut down “at the time of greatest need”.
He said Sierra Leone would be reviewing its relations with countries that the government felt had snubbed their cries for help “when life returns to normal”.
According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization, 1,350 people are now believed to have died from the Ebola virus, which has been raging in the region since March.
The WHO said it was concerned that families were hiding infected loved ones in the belief they will be more comfortable dying at home. [AFP]