Shots fired at Liberia Ebola protest
Police in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, have fired live rounds and tear gas during protests after a quarantine was imposed to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
Residents of the capital’s West Point slum area say the barbed wire blockade stops them buying food and working.
Four people are said to have been injured in the clashes.
Liberia has seen the most deaths – 576 – in the world’s worst Ebola outbreak, which has hit West Africa this year.
A total of 1,350 have died in four countries – Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, as well as Liberia.
Security forces erected the blockade following an order from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who also imposed a curfew.
West Point residents last weekend attacked a quarantine centre, looting mattresses and helping suspected Ebola patients to leave, potentially helping to spread the virus to other parts of the capital, Monrovia.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization released new figures showing that between 17 and 18 August, there were 221 new cases and 106 deaths in West Africa.
A top Lagos doctor has just died of the virus, bringing the number of people who have died of Ebola in Nigeria to five, the health ministry said.
Colleagues said consultant Stella Ameyo Adadevo was the first medic to order that a sick patient from Liberia be tested for Ebola when he was admitted in July.
“We owe her a lot; she managed the situation like a thorough professional that she was. She had helped Nigeria to contain the epidemic in her own way,” Akin Osibogun, the chief medical director at Lagos University Teaching Hospital, told Nigeria’s Premium Times newspaper.
Kenyan travel restrictions have now taken effect, blocking travellers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – the three countries most affected by the outbreak. Earlier this week Cameroon shut its border with Nigeria.
At the scene: Nathalie Wakam, BBC Africa, Douala
The closure of the border between Cameroon and Nigeria because of the Ebola outbreak is affecting the busy car market in Douala, Cameroon’s economic hub. It is full of traders and mechanics, and is the place to go for anything vehicle-related.
Most of the dealers are Nigerian and import second-hand parts as well as new vehicles. They understand the need for caution but are concerned about trade.
“Since last week our goods are there in the port in Calabar – there’s no movement,” one of them said. The goods tend to be offloaded at Calabar, in southern Nigeria, shipped to other ports in Cameroon and then transported by road. “We are pleading with the Cameroonian and Nigerian governments to seek solutions,” another trader said.
The closure was officially announced on Monday, but cross-border activity has been affected since last week. “There are families that have travelled to Nigeria for holidays and now they’re supposed to come back for the resumption of school but they are blocked,” a businessman explained.
There is no known cure for Ebola, but the WHO has ruled that untested drugs can be used to treat patients in light of the scale of the current outbreak – the deadliest to date.
The experimental drug ZMapp has been used to treat several people who contracted Ebola in Liberia but the US firm that makes the drug says it has for now run out of it, so the only way to stop the current outbreak is to isolate the victims.
One 15-year-old boy was injured as he tried to cross the barbed-wire barricades erected by the security forces, who fired into the air to disperse the protesters.
The BBC’s Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia says troops are patrolling in West Point, the country’s largest slum which is home to more than 50,000 and sprawls along the Atlantic coast. Ferries have been halted and coast-guard boats are monitoring the coastline.
Ebola Virus Disease (EVD)
- Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
- Fatality rate can reach 90% – but current outbreak has about 55%
- Incubation period is two to 21 days
- There is no vaccine or cure
- Supportive care such as rehydrating patients who have diarrhoea and vomiting can help recovery
- Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus’ natural host
A resident told the BBC that tea gas was fired by police to disperse angry crowds.
Our reporter says fear and tension has been growing in the slum for days and residents feel not enough has been done to protect them.
But President Johnson Sirleaf said people were not heeding government warnings.
“We have been unable to control the spread due to continued denials, cultural varying practices, disregard for the advice of health workers and disrespect for the warnings by the government,” she said on Tuesday evening.
Some people have dismissed the Ebola outbreak as a hoax, while others do not trust Western medicine, saying the disease is the result of witchcraft.
Dolo Town, about 40km (25 miles) from Monrovia, has also been put under quarantine and all entertainment centres are to be closed and video centres are to shut by 18:00 local time.