Africa

Ebola crisis: Vote count under way in Liberia senate election

  • 21 December 2014
  • From the section Africa
An election workers takes the temperature of a voter in the West Point slum before she casts her vote, during the senate election in Monrovia, Liberia. Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014
Image caption Election workers took the temperature of voters before they entered election centres

Votes are being counted in Liberia's senate election held on Saturday despite a deadly Ebola outbreak.

Turnout in the poll - which had been planned for October - was low as many people decided to stay away.

Those who came to polling stations had their temperature taken, were told to stand a metre (3ft) apart and wash their hands before and after voting.

Ebola has killed more than 7,373 people in West Africa - with 3,346 deaths in Liberia, the UN says.

Among the 139 candidates vying for 15 seats were former football star George Weah and Robert Sirleaf, the son of Liberia's president.

The election was held just days after neighbouring Sierra Leone clamped down on public gatherings.

It has banned Sunday trading, restricted travel between districts and prohibited public celebrations over Christmas and the New Year.

Image caption Campaigners were urged to follow public health regulations
Image caption A crowd followed former football star George Weah as he campaigned in November
Image caption Suspected Ebola patients are kept in quarantine at medical centres

One of Sierra Leone's top doctors, Victor Willoughby, died from Ebola on Thursday, just hours after the arrival of experimental drug ZMab which could have been used to treat him.

Healthcare workers are among those most at risk of catching Ebola which is spread by bodily fluids and requires close contact with victims.

In November, Liberia's election commission chairman, Jerome Korkoya, urged candidates and supporters to follow public health regulations in the run-up to the senate elections.

"For instance, the transportation of large groups of electorates by candidates clustered in vehicles and the congregation of huge number of people will be regulated," he said in a statement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was in Liberia on Friday at the start of a two-day visit to countries affected by Ebola in West Africa. He continued on to Guinea on Saturday.

Media captionBen Bland reports on Ban Ki-moon's tour aimed at reminding the world the Ebola threat is not over yet

After stepping off the plane, he washed his hands and had his temperature taken - two important practices to help stop the spread of the disease.

Mr Ban urged people to follow strict health regulations until the epidemic was over.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf lifted a state of emergency last month that was imposed in August to control the outbreak.