Voice of America (Washington, DC)

20 August 2014

Liberia: Govt Vows to Control Ebola-Related Price Hikes

Liberia's Information Minister, Lewis Brown, said the government has put in place necessary measures to mitigate the economic impact of Ebola on the country.

This comes as Liberians complain about rising prices of basic commodities. Brown said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has told businesses that while her government strongly believes in the free market system, any unnecessary increases in prices would be considered a crime.

Meanwhile, Brown said the government was able to account for all 17 suspected Ebola patients who fled an isolation center in Monrovia after it was attacked and looted by armed men Saturday.

He said the incident was the result of a misunderstanding between the government and some in the community.

"No one in that center had been confirmed as an Ebola patient. This was really a holding center. Yes, people were there as probable and suspect cases, but none of the cases had been confirmed as Ebola cases. But then, when some young people heard that there were others from outside the West Point area, then they took over the center and forced everyone out," he said.

Brown said the situation has been corrected and that the government has learned it will have to increase security at Ebola holding centers.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday another 84 people have died in West Africa as a result of the Ebola virus bringing the death toll to 1,229.

The agency said majority of the new deaths were in Liberia.

Brown denied the government was losing control in its efforts to contain the spread of the virus, despite declaring a state of emergency more than two weeks ago.

"There are areas where we are showing signs of encouragement, areas which were initially identified as epic centers of the disease. These areas are now showing signs of improvement. The numbers are down. In and around Monrovia continues to be a difficult challenge. But, at the same time, we are continuing to take measures, including public awareness and education," Brown said.

Brown said the government is aware it cannot just police its way out of the Ebola crisis. He said the government wants to prevent Ebola rather than cure it, and that increasing public awareness in segments of the affected areas that are still in denial is one way of achieving that objective.

With food prices rising almost daily, some Liberians have been fearful they could die from what they are calling "economic Ebola."

"The president met with the business community and warned against such practices. They reassured her that they will make sure that especially the things that Liberians need to fight this disease are not increased, and that such increases will be considered as a crime against the people of Liberia," Brown said.

He said Sirleaf has instructed the Ministry of Commerce to make sure there are no unnecessary price increases.

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