June 22, 2020 / 5:46 PM / 15 days ago

Liberia extends COVID-19 state of emergency as cases rise 'exponentially'

FILE PHOTO: A police officer chases shoppers to clear the streets of the Red Light market on the first day of lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Monrovia, Liberia April 11, 2020. REUTERS/Derick Snyder/File Photo

MONROVIA (Reuters) - Liberian President George Weah extended a state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic by 30 days on Monday, citing an exponential increase in the number of cases despite compulsory mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders.

The decision runs counter to moves by other governments in West Africa that have sought to ease restrictions, despite rising case numbers, to allow the resumption of day-to-day economic activities that millions of citizens depend on to survive.

Liberia has so far confirmed 626 cases of COVID-19 and 34 deaths since registering its first case in mid-March. A state of emergency was declared on April 8 that included the quarantining of 15 counties and a requirement to stay indoors after 3pm.

But despite restrictions on movement, social distancing and wearing of masks, the number of people infected has “exponentially increased”, Weah said in a proclamation, explaining the decision to extend the state of emergency.

Over the next 30 days, the government will re-examine its response to the pandemic and introduce measures to better protect Liberians, he said without giving further details.

Liberia is one of the world’s poorest countries, and most people live without reliable access to electricity and clean water. The 2013-16 Ebola outbreak killed more than 4,800 people there, including more than 150 healthcare workers.

Reporting by Alphonso Toweh; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Pravin Char

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