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Liberia Modifies Ebola Curfew Hours, Lifts Quarantine

Health workers load the body of an amputee suspected of dying from the Ebola virus during the rain on the back of a truck, in a busy street in Monrovia, Liberia, Sept. 2, 2014.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has ordered the lifting of an Ebola quarantine on a town near the capital, Monrovia, and an adjustment in the hours of a nationwide curfew.

A presidential statement Monday said the lifting of the quarantine on Dolo Town in Margibi County was due to the overall support and cooperation of the town’s people.

The nationwide curfew, which was imposed on August 20 and ran from 9 pm to 6 am, will now run from 11 pm to 6 am.

Ebola virus, rapid rise in spread of the disease, March - Sept, 2014
Ebola virus, rapid rise in spread of the disease, March - Sept, 2014

This comes as the World Health Organization Monday said it expects thousands of new cases of the Ebola virus in Liberia in the coming weeks. Liberia already accounts for about half of all cases and deaths of Ebola in West Africa.

Information Minister Lewis Brown said Sirleaf took the action because local communities have begun to take ownership of the fight against Ebola.

“We’re beginning to see signs in communities about increased level of ownership of this fight, whether it is from West Point to Dolo Town to Cartwell, into Lofa, into Bong [Counties]. Any of these communities are showing increased level of ownership of this fight. They have their own civilian surveillance teams and their own tracing teams,” he said.

Brown said the quarantine of West Point was a success, although the residents there said the government has yet to inform them of the outcome.

“Given this level of progress in communities such as West Point, our health authorities were pleased enough to replicate that level of public awareness and community ownership of the fight into other difficult communities," Brown said.

Brown acknowledged his country is at the center of the Ebola epidemic, but added the lifting of quarantines does not in any way play down the seriousness of the disease.

“We know the numbers are grim, but we’re pleased that... our communities are beginning to work to make sure that we don’t have to reach those grim numbers. But, it does not in any way suggest that there should be the lessening of the level of international involvement and support,” Brown said.

Brown said his government welcomes Monday’s call by the African Union to lift the travel bans imposed on West African countries affected by Ebola.

African Union Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told a crisis meeting in Addis Ababa Monday, "We must be careful not to introduce measures that may have more social and economic impact than the disease itself.”

Brown said that while the Liberian government understands the concerns and needs of other countries to protect their investments, imposing travel bans and other measures do little to help the region defeat Ebola.

“The truth is some of the measures clearly do not, in any way, work toward assisting us in this fight, or go to the extent of preventing the virus,” Brown said.