Liberians rejoice but Ebola still a threat
14 November 2014, 22:57
Monrovia - The World Health Organization warned on Friday that the Ebola epidemic was far from beaten as Liberians celebrated the end of the country's state of emergency.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced on Friday she was lifting a raft of punitive restrictions on freedoms imposed three months ago because the spread was slowing in the capital, Monrovia.
"This is an indication that the situation is even better than we thought," said a rejoicing Mamadee Swaray, an entrepreneur in the capital Monrovia.
"The state of emergency was decided because of the fast spreading speed of the virus. If it is lifted this means that cases are not only reducing but there is a better future for us."
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Official figures show Ebola has claimed more than 5,100 lives across west Africa 2,836 of them in hardest-hit Liberia with the real death toll thought to be up to three times higher.
The WHO said reports of new cases had dropped dramatically in the capital but warned against complacency, saying the trend wasn't being repeated across the country.
"While the number of new cases appears to be declining, with reported cases in the capital city going down from 75 to 25 new cases per day, a mixed picture emerges in different counties," it said in a statement.
Bruce Aylward, the head of the WHO's Ebola response team, said there had been no new cases for more than a week in Lofa, where the outbreak began in Liberia.
But transmission in parts of Montserrado County outside the capital remained "consistently high", he said as he wrapped up a four-day visit to the country.
"Despite the expressed optimism, the latest observation does not mean that Ebola is under control in Liberia," the WHO said.
"The virus has the potential to appear in waves, which can be mistaken for declining cases. While the Ebola transmission is on-going, the potential for a resurgence in case numbers, through on-going unsafe burials or undetected cases within the community, remains a real threat which could lead to a further epidemic wave."
During the past week, according to the WHO, new Ebola cases were reported in almost every part of Liberia, with the highest number in Grand Bassa and Grand Cape Mount, two counties that previously had very few cases.