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Liberia Lifts Ebola Curfew, Opens Borders

FILE - Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

A Liberian health ministry official said the country will continue to observe all Ebola preventive protocols and regulations until it achieves “zero infections.”

This came as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Sunday ordered the lifting of the nationwide Ebola curfew put in place in August to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Ebola outbreaks, deaths in Africa, as of Feb. 17 - 21, 2015
Ebola outbreaks, deaths in Africa, as of Feb. 17 - 21, 2015

Sirleaf also ordered the opening of the country’s borders with its West African neighbors.

Tolbert Nyenswah, the assistant minister of health for preventive services and head of the country’s Ebola response, said Liberia is returning to a more normal state in light of the recent decline in the number of Ebola cases and the reopening of schools.

“We are seeing some light after the massive Ebola crisis here. Things are improving. And so, the economy of the country has to restart, the president has lifted the curfew, and kids have to go back to school. And so, these are all activities that indicate [we’re] moving toward normality,” he said.

Nyenswah said that if Liberia is reporting even a single case of Ebola per day, that means the disease is still in the country.

But, he added that unlike in the past, there has been a significant improvement in the response to new cases.

“Every single case that is reported in Liberia now is on the contact list. In the past 21 days, we’ve seen only 14 Ebola cases as compared to 70 to 100 cases in the month of August. Our team is robust in the response together with our international partners, including the US government. So, we are optimistic we will get to zero [cases] soon,” Nyenswah said.

Sirleaf also ordered the opening of Liberia’s borders, even as neighboring countries like Sierra Leone continue to report moderate to high infections.

Nyenswah said Liberia has instituted robust cross-border surveillance.

“Our county health teams in Liberia are more vigilant with cross-border surveillance. All of our border counties have been freed of Ebola either in the last 35 to 42 days, including Grand Cape Mounty, Gbarpolu, Lofa, and Nimba. These counties bordering Sierra Leone and Guinea have been Ebola free over 42 days now,” Nyenswah said.

Liberian schools reopened February 16 after they had been shut down since last year. Nyenswah said the government has been distributing Ebola prevention materials to thousands of schools across the country.

“We delivered Ebola prevention materials to 4,000-plus schools in Liberia covering about one-million school-going children. These materials include temperature check devices, chlorine, and hand-washing equipment like buckets. We continue to carry on assessment to make sure that the rest of the schools in Liberia get those materials,” Nyenswah said.

Butty interview with Tolbert Nyenswah
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