Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of the Republic of Sierra Leone, was having trouble “getting to zero,” and his underlings were getting antsy. “We need one more push,” said Major Palo Conteh, the commander of Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) and a former Olympic quarter miler. “It’s like in the 400 meters when you’re 20 meters from the finish line, that’s the time to kick hard.”
Brigadier General David Taluva, a jovial officer with the physique of a shot putter, had other ideas. “Perhaps we should quarantine Port Loko,” he mused to a group of officers gathered outside a Portakabin by the Special Court building in Freetown, now transformed into an Ebola situation room. “No, wait, then we would have to quarantine the whole country.”
The officers shuffled their feet awkwardly, then parted to make way for an official who was late for that evening’s briefing.