Sierra Leone prepares for three-day shutdown to slow spread of Ebola virus

The entire country of Sierra Leone will shut down for three days in an attempt to slow down the Ebola outbreak.

Starting at midnight GMT on Thursday, the country’s six million people will remain in their homes while thousands of volunteers will travel door to door looking for infected patients and bodies. They will also deliver soap and information about the deadly virus.

The Ebola virus could severely damage West African economies in the region if the virus is not contained, according to a World Bank analysis released Wednesday. Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the countries most affected by the virus, would see the most reduced economic growth.

The three West African countries are predicted to lose $359 million in economic output this year, the World Bank said. The bank also has pledged $230 million in emergency assistance funding to the affected countries, but the World Health Organization has said the virus will require $1 billion to contain.

“The [$1 billion] is something we need right now, and it could go up rapidly if we do not respond,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim told reporters Wednesday.

Most of the economic losses come from people making decisions driven by fear of Ebola, not the costs directly related to the virus itself, the bank said in a statement, adding that the concern of contagion has caused disruption in business, public transportation and air travel.

WHO reported more than 700 new cases in the last week, indicating that the virus is spreading more rapidly. Three weeks ago, 500 new cases were reported in the same week-long timespan.

The virus has infected an estimated 5,300 people and killed more than 2,600 in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and Senegal, WHO reports.