After almost two years, 14,000 cases and nearly 4000 deaths, Sierra Leone finally has an Ebola story worth celebrating.
What a lot of time I’ve spent talking about this horrible disease on this blog.
The first time I referred to the outbreak, pretty casually, was here in June of 2014. In fact, I was very careful to be casual. By then I had already written and deleted a half dozen entries on the disease which we watched approaching by the day. We didn’t want to worry people back home and at first we, too, hoped it might pass.
And when it became clear it wouldn’t pass we talked and worried a lot about how close would be too close – about when might be the time to run and how we would do it. If we had stayed in Sierra Leone another week our flights would have been cancelled. A few days after that we would have found ourselves under quarantine. We cut it close, and we were lucky but that was no accident either.
When I wrote that first Ebola entry we were more worried than we let on. I remember thinking even then that it would probably take a good year for the outbreak to pass.
And here we are, 7th November 2015, talking about Ebola and about Sierra Leone again. But today is a good day. Today, this big day, the country is finally declared Ebola free.
They’ve done it. They’ve bloody done it. It’s over. It’s finished it’s done and now everything starts again. Guinea is still producing a handful of cases – and complacency is a killer – but they are close too, by God, really close. But for Sierra Leone, today, it’s done. It took nearly two years, but it’s over.
There will be time to reflect, time to think again of all those lives lost, all those families damaged beyond repair. There will be time in the future to go over the mistakes made and talk about the lessons to be learned. There will be recriminations and reconciliations.
But today is a good day. Today is worth celebrating.
For Sierra Leone, Ebola done done, and I’ve waited a long time to write that.