Liberia's President 'Cautiously Optimistic' on Ebola Epidemic
MONROVIA, Liberia -- For months the Ebola virus has been centered in Liberia, killing more than half of those infected.
This week, Liberia's two most important political leaders, the president and vice president, talked exclusively with CBN News's George Thomas about the illness ravaging their country.
"We're seeing a little bit of a reduction in the incidences across the country. However, we're very cautious about that."
Even before I (George Thomas) could step in this office to meet Vice President Joseph Boakai or spend time with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Africa's first woman president, my day had to start by getting through Liberian security.
Under normal circumstances, I would shake hands, but the situation in Liberia doesn't allow it.
In addition to the usual security checks that you have to perform when you are seeing a head of state, here in Liberia we have to wash our hands with chlorine before meeting with the president.
"The difficulty of access has to do with our rurul communities where infrastructure is poor."
Then one final stop: a temperature check to make sure I didn't have a fever before entering the presidential office.
Inside, a semi-confident Liberian president told CBN News she believes her country is slowly turning the tide against the deadly virus.
"We are beginning to see a little bit of a reduction in the incidences across the country," Johnson-Sirleaf said.
"It (Ebola) has interrupted all our development work." What has Ebola done to the nation of Liberia?
But President Johnson-Sirleaf's use of phrases like "cautiously optimistic" or "light at the end of the tunnel" flies in the face of what top U.S. health officials are saying about the Ebola crisis.
The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus, if not contained quickly, could become the next AIDS epidemic -- a fact Johnson-Sirleaf is keenly aware of. But she insists the situation is improving.
"Are you saying that Liberia is turning the corner?" I asked.
"Well, let me say that I am cautiously optimistic because we are always reminded that there are valleys and hills in this Ebola situation," Johnson-Sirleaf replied.
"But at least I see much more hope on the part of all of the healthcare workers and the part of all of us who feel that we've come around a little bit better, that we are more equipped and that we now see light at the end of the tunnel and we are happy about that," she said.
"Liberia has had many challenges... but we get up. Liberians are resilient." What will Liberia do to restore Liberia's reputation?
Liberia's Vice President Boakai cites as an example his hometown where the virus first started. The rates of infections there have dropped dramatically, thanks in part to prevention and awareness.
"I believe the message is going out and people are now educated to it," he said. "Unless there are other dimensions to it, but I want to believe that this disease is on a downward scale."
Johnson-Sirleaf said her government will remain vigilant until the virus is contained or totally eradicated.
How will the Liberian government build the confidence of the Liberian citizens?
"Things may become stable for a while and all of a sudden you may face another outbreak that could have rapid transmission and there you are; your numbers could climb again," she explained.
Despite the president's cautious optimism, the virus still has the country on edge and everyone more guarded than ever before.
Why did President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf write President Barack Obama a letter?