Newspaper article International New York Times

Liberia Bans Voter Rallies in the Capital amid Ebola ; Ahead of Election, Leader Argues That Large Crowds Increase Risk of Infection

Newspaper article International New York Times

Liberia Bans Voter Rallies in the Capital amid Ebola ; Ahead of Election, Leader Argues That Large Crowds Increase Risk of Infection

Article excerpt

In issuing the crowd-control order, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf argued that large concentrations of people could spawn new infections.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has banned all rallies and other mass gatherings in Monrovia before the senatorial election scheduled in less than two weeks, asserting that they risk worsening the spread of the Ebola outbreak.

The president's order on Thursday also extended the ban to 30 days beyond the election. The order came just as Liberia appears to have made progress in slowing the disease, which has also severely afflicted neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, and has spread to Mali.

Ebola has now sickened more than 17,200 people in the three worst- hit countries and killed more than 6,100, according to the latest data posted Thursday by the World Health Organization. Half the deaths have been in Liberia.

In issuing the crowd-control order, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf argued that large concentrations of people at election rallies -- especially in the Monrovia area, where half the population of four million lives -- were precisely the situations that could spawn new infections.

Curbing such gatherings, she said, would "strengthen the efforts of the government of Liberia to contain the spread of Ebola, to protect the security of the state, maintain law and order and promote peace and stability in Liberia."

The Senate election, scheduled for Dec. 16, already has been postponed once because of the Ebola crisis, which began last March. It has escalated into what United Nations officials have called one of the worst public health crises of modern times.

The Supreme Court of Liberia is deliberating on petitions filed by civil society groups seeking a further postponement of the election until the crisis is over, and its decision could come on Friday.

Most political parties, however, want the election to proceed. …

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