Relatives of Ebola victims in Liberia defied government quarantine orders and dumped infected bodies in the streets as West African governments struggled to enforce tough measures to curb an outbreak of the virus that has killed 887 people.
In Nigeria, which recorded its first death from Ebola in late July, authorities in Lagos said eight people who came in contact with the deceased U.S. citizen Patrick Sawyer were showing signs of the deadly disease.The outbreak was detected in March in the remote forest regions of Guinea, where the death toll is rising. In neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia, where the outbreak is now spreading fastest, authorities deployed troops to quarantine the border areas where 70 percent of cases have been detected.
Those three countries announced a raft of tough measures last week to contain the disease, shutting schools and imposing quarantines on victim’s homes, amid fears the incurable virus would overrun healthcare systems in one of the world’s poorest regions.In Liberia’s ramshackle ocean-front capital Monrovia, still scarred by a 1989-2003 civil war, relatives of Ebola victims were dragging bodies onto the dirt streets rather than face quarantine, officials said.
Information Minister Lewis Brown said some people may be alarmed by regulations imposing the decontamination of victims’ homes and the tracking of their friends and relatives. With less than half of those infected surviving the disease, many Africans regard Ebola isolation wards as death traps. “They are therefore removing the bodies from their homes and are putting them out in the street. They’re exposing themselves to the risk of being contaminated,” Brown told Reuters. “We’re asking people to please leave the bodies in their homes and we’ll pick them up.”
Brown said authorities had begun cremating bodies on Sunday, after local communities opposed burials in their neighborhoods, and had carried out 12 cremations on Monday. Meanwhile, in the border region of Lofa County, troops were deployed on Monday night to start isolating effected communities there.
“We hope it will not require excessive force, but we have to do whatever we can to restrict the movement of people out of affected areas,” Brown said.