Sierra Leone to ease restrictions as Ebola wanes

FREETOWN – Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma on Thursday ordered a lifting of travel and trade restrictions across his country following a marked decrease in Ebola infections.

In a televised address to the nation, the President said he was encouraged to take the new measures by progress made in the fight against the deadly disease so far.

"Given the progress being made against the disease, we must take action to enable economic and social recovery," Koroma said.

"Restrictions on movement will be eased to support economic activity," he added.

He noted that he also gave orders for lifting weekend trade restrictions.

"We have decided to ease the restrictions on trading hours in the Western  Area," the President said.

He added that trading hours would be extended until 6:00pm on Saturdays, whereas restrictions would continue to be placed on trading on Sundays.

He called on his country's people not to be "complacent" in the fight against Ebola.

"Let me also state that the fight is not over yet even as we ease restrictions," the President said.

He attributed the recent decrease in Ebola infections to positive attitudes by ordinary people in Sierra Leone.

In recent months, Ebola – a contagious disease for which there is no known treatment or cure – has killed 8,641 people, mostly in West Africa, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) report issued on Jan. 21.

In Sierra Leone alone, the virus has claimed a total of 3,145 lives to date.

On Wednesday, authorities in Sierra Leone decided to reopen schools as of March.

"We are planning to make sure our schools are safe and disinfected so that we can get back our children to schools," Minister of Education, Science and Technology Minkailu Bah told a high-level consultative meeting chaired by President Koroma late on Wednesday.

He asserted that his ministry is working towards the reopening of schools by March this year, according to a press release from the State House.

Bah said that the government will provide thermometers to all schools, including private schools, and train teachers on using them. It will also provide teaching and learning materials.

He added that the government, which is already subsidizing fees for girls, will extend it to boys in secondary schools in order to reduce the burden on parents.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency