Three African leaders meet to agree measures to fight Ebola outbreak

Leaders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia vow to work together to prevent new cases

A Unicef worker holds a poster bearing information about best practices to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus, in Conakry, Guinea. Photograph: Reuters

A Unicef worker holds a poster bearing information about best practices to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus, in Conakry, Guinea. Photograph: Reuters

Fri, Aug 1, 2014, 01:00

The leaders of the three west African countries hit by an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus have vowed to work together to prevent new cases of the highly infectious disease, stepping up their response after criticism for moving too slowly.

The presidents of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia will meet today in Conakry, the Guinean capital, to agree new measures to stop the outbreak, officials said, as the death toll climbed to 729 people, with more than 1,300 infected.

Lewis Brown, information minister of Liberia, said: “Until we eliminate the disease in the three countries, we are in danger because our borders are very porous. We are expecting that measures [to contain the outbreak] will be ramped up in the three countries.”

The meeting comes after Sierra Leone yesterday introduced sweeping measures to contain the disease, after months of indecision.

Ernest Bai Koroma, president of Sierra Leone, said yesterday “all epicentres of the disease will be quarantined” with the help of the army, adding that “public meetings and gatherings will be restricted”.

The sweeping orders, in effect for the next 60 to 90 days, came hours after Liberia had introduced similar measures.

On national television, Mr Koroma said Ebola posed “an extraordinary challenge to our nation. Consequently . . . I hereby proclaim a state of public emergency to enable us take a more robust approach.”

He added: “The disease is beyond the scope of any one country, or community to defeat. Its social, economic, psychological and security implications require scaling up measures at international, national, inter-agency and community levels.”

Medical charities have for weeks urged west African governments to step up their response to the outbreak, which some have said is out of control.

The measures taken by Sierra Leone and Liberia in the past 24 hours are the most sweeping since the outbreak started in a remote forest region of Guinea in February. – Financial Times