Ebola-hit Liberia lifts night curfew for New Year

A packed street in Monrovia on Dec 23, 2014. Ebola-ravaged Liberia on Wednesday lifted a night curfew in place since August to allow New Year's Eve services. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A packed street in Monrovia on Dec 23, 2014. Ebola-ravaged Liberia on Wednesday lifted a night curfew in place since August to allow New Year's Eve services. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MONROVIA (AFP) - Ebola-ravaged Liberia on Wednesday lifted a night curfew in place since August to allow New Year's Eve services.

Justice Minister Benedict F. Sannoh said in a statement he was acting on the orders of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, herself a practising Christian.

"In an effort to enable churches and religious groups around the country to conduct traditional worship services on the eve of the New Year, I am pleased to announce... that curfew for Wednesday night... is hereby suspended.

"All churches and religious organisations conducting worship services on New Year Eve are advised to abide by all existing Ebola preventive protocols as well as the regulations issued by the minister of health," the statement said.

Christians comprise more than 85 per cent of the population of Liberia, Africa's oldest republic which was formed by freed American slaves.

Liberia imposed a night curfew and a state of emergency on Aug 6, following the Ebola outbreak. Curfew hours were initially from 9pm to 6am but have now been reduced and start at midnight and last till 6am.

But the state of emergency was lifted on Nov 11.

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in west Africa has risen to 7,842 out of 20,081 cases recorded, according to the latest figures by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Liberia, long the hardest-hit country in the outbreak, has seen a clear decrease in transmission over the past month.

As of Dec 27, it counted 7,977 cases and 3,413 deaths, according to WHO statistics.