Guinea closed its borders with Sierra Leone and Liberia on Saturday in a bid to halt the spread of an Ebola epidemic that has killed nearly 1,000 people in the three countries this year.
Authorities said the decision was taken primarily to prevent infected people from crossing into Guinea, a country where at least 367 people have died of Ebola since March and 18 others are being treated in isolation.
The west African outbreak of Ebola is the worst the world has faced, and the United Nations’ World Health Organization said Friday it represents an international health emergency that will likely continue for months.
The Ebola outbreak has put a severe strain on the health systems of affected states. Governments have responded with a range of measures, including declaring national emergencies in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, which confirmed seven cases of Ebola in Lagos.
“We have provisionally closed the frontier between Guinea and Sierra Leone because of all the news that we have received from there recently,” health minister Rémy Lamah said, noting Guinea had also closed its border with Liberia.
The measures had been taken in consultation with the two neighbors, Guinea’s minister for international co-operation, Moustapha Koutoub Sano, said at a news conference. There was no immediate comment from Liberia and Sierra Leone.
While Guinea’s official land border crossings with the countries will close, it will be extremely difficult to prevent people in rural areas from crossing its long and porous frontiers.
It was not immediately clear how the closure would affect air travel.
In central Liberia on Saturday, police raced to quell a demonstration by crowds who had blocked the country’s busiest highway to protest the government’s delay in collecting bodies of Ebola victims.
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