Sierra Leone on Friday lifted crippling nationwide restrictions on movement put in place at the height of the Ebola crisis, amid signs that the deadly epidemic is retreating.
"Restrictions on movement will be eased to support economic activity. As such, there will no longer be any district or chiefdom level restrictions on movement," President Ernest Bai Koroma said in an address to the nation late Thursday.
AdvertisementHowever, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the crisis was still "extremely alarming" despite a drop in new cases.
WHO said in its latest update that 8,688 people had died of Ebola infection, among a cumulative total of 21,759 cases.
Liberia, which had a peak of over 300 new cases a week in August and September, registered just eight last week, while there were only 20 confirmed cases in Guinea last week against 45 the week before.
The figure for Sierra Leone was 117 last week against 184 the week before, the WHO said, but added that the west of the country remained a problem area.
Koroma vowed that anti-Ebola measures such as a ban on washing the bodies of victims of the highly infectious virus would remain in place.
"Our records show that this is now the greatest threat to our victory over the disease," he said. "Law enforcement agencies and chiefs are under instruction to ensure that the full force of the law is brought to bear on those who touch or wash dead bodies."
He added that while victory over the epidemic was in sight, "we must not relent, we must continue to soldier on".