Liberia’s president has closed all but three land border crossings, restricted public gatherings and quarantined communities heavily affected by the Ebola outbreak.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf described the measures after the first meeting of a new taskforce she created and is chairing to contain the disease, which has killed 129 people in the country and more than 670 across the region.
A top Liberian doctor working at the country’s largest hospital died on Saturday, and two American aid workers have fallen ill, underlining the dangers facing those charged with bringing the outbreak under control.
Last week a Liberian official flew to Nigeria via Lome, Togo, and died of the disease at a Lagos hospital. The fact that the official, Patrick Sawyer, was able to board an international flight despite being ill raised fears that the disease could spread beyond the three countries already affected – Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
There is no known cure for Ebola, which begins with symptoms including fever and sore throat and escalates to vomiting, diarrhoea and internal bleeding. The disease spreads through direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids as well as indirect contact with “environments contaminated with such fluids”, according to the World Health Organisation.
“No doubt, the Ebola virus is a national health problem,” Sirleaf said. “And as we have also begun to see, it attacks our way of life, with serious economic and social consequences.”
Sirleaf said also that “preventive and testing centres would be established” at airports and open border crossings.