FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (AP) — The first wave of volunteers from Britain's National Health Service arrived in Sierra Leone Saturday amid what the World Health Organization has described as an "intense" surge in cases.
More than 30 NHS staffers, including general practitioners and nurses, were expected to stay in Freetown, the capital, for one week of training before moving to treatment centers across the country, Britain's Department for International Development said in a statement.
They join nearly 1,000 British soldiers, scientists and aid workers already in the country participating in the Ebola fight, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said.
"To beat Ebola we desperately need the experience and dedication of skilled doctors and nurses to care for the thousands of sick and dying patients who are not receiving the treatment they need," Greening said.
Ebola is believed to have killed more than 1,200 people in Sierra Leone and more than 5,400 across West Africa, according to WHO figures.
Only 13 percent of Sierra Leone's Ebola patients had been isolated, according to a WHO report released this week.
More than 1,000 British National Health staffers have volunteered for the Ebola effort. Those deployed Saturday will be posted to British-built treatment centers. They have already received nine days of training including operating in a mock treatment center.
On Friday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that despite recent signs of progress in Liberia and elsewhere, the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded would take "until the middle of next year" to contain.
Liberia has recorded the most cases and deaths out of any country, though the spread of the disease has fallen off considerably in recent weeks and the government lifted a state of emergency earlier this month.
On Friday, however, Liberia's police force ordered that all public rallies, demonstrations and gatherings be banned until the country is declared free of the disease.
The only exception, the police said in a bulletin read on state radio, was campaign rallies related to Senate elections scheduled for Dec. 16.
Associated Press writer Jonathan Paye-Layleh contributed to this report from Monrovia, Liberia.