Accessibility links

Breaking News

Turnout Low for Liberian Election Amid Ebola Fear

FILE - Health workers wearing protective gear remove the body of a man they suspect died from the Ebola virus at a treatment center on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia, Nov. 28, 2014.

Health workers manned polling stations Saturday as Liberians voted in a Senate election that was delayed twice because of the West African Ebola epidemic.

Liberian election officials mandated that all participants wash their hands and be tested for fever before entering buildings, and then maintain a 1-meter distance from one another.

Critics had questioned whether it was safe to hold the election, with the potential for the Ebola virus to spread among people in line at polling stations. Voter turnout around the country was reported to be low.

The World Health Organization said late Friday that more than 7,400 people have died of Ebola in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the three countries hit hardest by the epidemic. Liberia has the highest number of deaths at more than 3,300, although the number of new cases there appears to be declining.

The total number of cases in those three countries now stands at 19,031.

Just under 2 million people were eligible to vote in the election to select 15 senators, one from each of Liberia's counties. In the most high-profile race, former football star George Weah was running against Robert Sirleaf, the son of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Officials said election results could be available as early as Sunday.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was wrapping up a tour of the West African nations struggling with Ebola. In Guinea on Saturday, he met with President Alpha Conde and some of the health workers fighting the virus. Later, he went to Mali's capital, Bamako.

Ban noted that the spread of Ebola had slowed in parts of Guinea, but he said he was worried that the number of cases in Guinea's forest region, bordering both Liberia and Sierra Leone, was continuing to grow.

During the tour, the U.N. chief has expressed optimism that Ebola can be stopped but called on all West Africans to remain vigilant against the virus.