By Sola Ogundipe and Gabriel Olawale–
LAGOS — The worst Ebola outbreak on record has killed 8,153 people out of the total number of 20,656 confirmed, probable and suspected cases, a mortality rate of 39 per cent, even as Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has announced the reopening of schools in the country from February 2.
Disclosing this in a statement, the World Health Organisation, WHO, revealed that 2,915 deaths have been reported from Sierra Leone, 3,471 in Liberia and 1,767 in Guinea. The current outbreak, which began about a year ago, has also claimed more than dozen lives elsewhere.
The development which came as a result of declined in the number of cases recorded daily has the latest figures showed the infection rate has dwindled to just three cases a day.
Also, the US also plans to withdraw about half of its 2,400 troops six months after the virus struck, claiming 3,400 lives.
On July 30,2014, Sirleaf ordered all schools to close their doors to contain the epidemic. Optimism has been increased by figures issued by the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (Unmeer). They show the country had no confirmed Ebola cases on 31 December and just 91 cases in the past 21 days.
This compares starkly with the 979 cases in the past three weeks in neighbouring Sierra Leone where, Unmeer says, "transmission remains intense" but the infection rate in Liberia is moving to a national average of just over three cases per day, it said on its Facebook page on Monday.
US Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who visited the country, said the epidemic had reduced "to a few embers" and many of the soldiers there are now "bored because they have accomplished most of their mission."
"We can't declare mission accomplished and withdraw too early here, [but] we can bring home a thousand or more of these troops now," he told CBS's Face the Nation.
In another piece of good news for Liberia, the country's football federation announced the resumption of competitive matches. Musa Bility, the president of the Liberian Football Association, said the ban was lifted "with immediate effect" but he urged players to keep in mind preventative measures to halt the spread of Ebola.
The incidence of Ebola has been declining in Liberia since mid-November, with Médecins sans Frontières closing one of its hospitals on 10 December after recording no new patients in six weeks.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced at the weekend that schools would reopen on 2 February but did not specify whether the measure would apply to the entire education system.