Senegal partially reopens borders with worst-hit Ebola states, and Togo minister says 'we cannot relax efforts'

Announcement came after Liberia lifted its state of emergency citing huge gains in the fight against the deadly disease.

SENEGAL has reopened air and sea borders with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the countries worst hit by the Ebola virus.

The frontiers had been closed since August 21, but the restriction was lifted with immediate effect, Senegalese Interior Minister Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo said Friday.

“Senegal has decided to partially open its borders with the Republic of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone as of this Friday… this measure applies only to air and maritime borders excluding the land border,” Diallo said in a statement.

Guinea shares a land border with Senegal, which will remain closed.

The announcement came after Liberia lifted its state of emergency Thursday, announcing huge gains in the fight against Ebola.

Smaller, more mobile treatment units are being deployed in remote areas of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to act quickly to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

No mention was made of neighbouring Mali in the statement, which has recorded deaths from the Ebola virus. The land border between the two countries remains open.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced on Friday that 5,177 people have now died of Ebola across eight countries, out of a total 14,413 cases of infection, since late December 2013.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have suffered the most during the deadliest ever outbreak of the disease.

In its latest toll, WHO said that through November 10, 2,812 people had died in Liberia, out of 6,878 cases.

In Sierra Leone, 1,187 people had died as of November 11 out of 5,586 cases, WHO said.

Guinea, where the outbreak began late last year, counted 1,166 deaths and 1,919 cases, also as of November 11.

Senegal was declared Ebola free by the WHO in October after a single, non-fatal case was earlier detected in the country.

MEANWHILE Togo, which is coordinating the fight against West Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak, says the international community “cannot relax efforts” to combat the disease, Social Action Minister Dede Ahoefa Ekoue told AFP.
Speaking ahead of the G20 summit in Australia, Ekoue said “global solidarity” is essential to beat the epidemic, which has already killed more than 5,100 people, mostly in hardest-hit Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.  

In this interview, Ekoue underlines the critical need for a comprehensive and rapid response to the deadliest-ever Ebola outbreak. 

Q: Liberia lifted its state of emergency this week, announcing huge gains in the fight against Ebola. Is the epidemic slowing in West Africa? 

A: First of all, we have to be pleased with the reduction in cases in these countries. It’s very important because our efforts are now producing results. But we definitely cannot relax efforts. We need to reassess the measures we’ve taken, and we have to continue—but without panic—we must be vigilant at all times.  

Q: Is foreign aid from wealthy nations enough in the fight against Ebola? Are you afraid of a weakening in the international effort? 

A: We welcome the leadership of the United States and other countries that allowed us to tackle Ebola not only as a health issue, but also as a matter of global safety.  When it comes to international solidarity, it’s not simply a matter of charity. Ebola could have an impact on national economies, on regional economies and at a global level too. The United Nations Security Council said Ebola posed an international threat… It is an international problem, and we need an international solution. For President (of Togo, Faure Gnassingbe), this call for international solidarity is very important and it’s a message that will be delivered at the G20.  

Q: Some say the International Monetary Fund-imposed austerity measures in Africa in the 1980s and 1990s undermined the health systems struggling today to respond to the Ebola outbreak. Do you agree? 

A: On the International Monetary Fund, at such times, it is important to not simply criticise… It’s true that our systems were undermined by problematic investments in the social sector, and the health sector in particular.  But today, countries know that we urgently need to reinforce national health systems… We need to make key investments. Now is not the time to get lost in criticisms. It’s time to act.

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