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Liberia celebrates after being declared Ebola-free

15 May 2015


Proclamation: a woman in Monrovia celebrates the declaration, on Saturday, that Liberia is free of the Ebola virus

Proclamation: a woman in Monrovia celebrates the declaration, on Saturday, that Liberia is free of the Ebola virus

A NATIONAL day of thanksgiving was held on Monday in Liberia, after the country was declared free of the Ebola virus, and celebrations were held in the capital, Monrovia.

In churches on Sunday, members of congregations did not have to have their temperatures taken at the door - but they still did not hug or kiss at the end of the service. Christians and Muslims were asked to pray for all those who had died.

Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were the countries worst hit by the outbreak of the Ebola virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Saturday that "the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over." It was, it said, "a monumental achievement for a country that reported the highest number of deaths in the largest, longest, and most complex outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976".

The WHO praised the work of the country's leadership and its health-care staff for the way in which they tackled the outbreak. "It is a tribute to the government and people of Liberia that determination to defeat Ebola never wavered; courage never faltered. Doctors and nurses continued to treat patients, even when supplies of personal protective equipment, and training in its safe use, were inadequate."

At its peak last summer, between 300 and 400 cases were being reported each week in the country. The WHO made the declaration after 42 days had passed without the declaration of a new case - double the usual incubation time for the virus.

The virus still exists, however, in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, although new outbreaks have slowed to fewer than ten a day.

During the year-long epidemic in Liberia, 4700 people have died from the disease, 189 of them health workers. In total, about 11,000 have died, the vast majority of them in the three West African nations.

A number of church pastors died in the epidemic: many of their deaths are attributed to their ministry of visiting the sick and praying over them.

But the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, gave a warning: "The task is not yet over. . . The challenge is that we stay at zero."

And the WHO warned that there was "a high risk that infected people may cross into Liberia over the region's exceptionally porous borders".

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