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Ebola

Sierra Leone faces two-week Ebola lockdown

A two-week quarantine has begun in an eastern district of Sierra Leone following a hike in Ebola cases. The president has called for a stop to traditional practices which could be spreading the virus.

Authorities in Sierra Leone have imposed a two-week lockdown in the eastern district of Kono after health workers uncovered a surge in Ebola infections. The virus was thought to be largely under control in the area.

As part of the lockdown, only essential vehicles are to be allowed in and out of the district and a night-time curfew is also to be introduced.

Due to its shortage of treatment centers and lack of trained staff, Sierra Leone has now overtaken Liberia as the worst Ebola-affected nation. The United Nations and Red Cross are setting up a treatment center in the remote area of Kono which only has one ambulance to transport the sick and take blood tests for sampling.

Dangerous traditions

In order to curb the spread of Ebola, Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma has also called on the country's local leaders to stop practices such as traditional burials. These involve touching corpses, the point at which transmission of the Ebola virus is most likely to occur.

"We should stop all traditional practices for now, so that we will live to continue to practice them later," Koroma said.

Christmas vigilance

The Red Cross also urged people on Thursday to take extra care to limit the spread of Ebola infections in West Africa as people travel across the region over the festive season.

"Now is the time to be even more vigilant," Elhadj As Sy, secretary general of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), told an audience at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. "We all welcome the plateauing and the signs of declines we are seeing in some places ... but that should not be a reason for complacency," he said.

The hemorrhagic virus outbreak which has killed more than 6,300 people is the worst Ebola outbreak in history. Nearly all the cases have been in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, with just a few in Nigeria, Mali, Spain, Germany and the US.

ksb/jm (Reuters, AP)

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