MONROVIA, Liberia — China, one of the first countries to send aid to battle Ebola in West Africa, ramped up the assistance significantly Tuesday by opening a 100-bed treatment center in Liberia as rows of uniformed Chinese army medics stood at attention.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf toured the Ebola treatment center built by China, calling it "first-class."
"We want to commend China for this exceptional response," Sirleaf said.
The facility, which is air-conditioned and has digital document keeping instead of paper, will start accepting patients next week, Chinese Embassy officials said. The giant white building topped with a blue roof and red signs with Chinese characters on them was built in the parking lot of a stadium outside Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Soldiers from America, which has also sent troops and is building treatment units in Liberia, were present at the ceremony.
China is Africa's largest trading partner and has especially close ties with Liberia, where many Chinese firms won contracts for post-war reconstruction projects. It has pledged $81 million in aid to West Africa, including the money for the treatment center, to stem the Ebola outbreak and has also sent at least 200 medical staff and promised more.
Ebola has infected more than 15,000 people, the majority of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and has taken an especially high toll on health workers. That has depleted the ranks of doctors and nurses in countries that had too few to begin with just when they needed them most.
In neighboring Sierra Leone, another doctor has contracted the disease, Abass Kamara, a Health Ministry spokesman, said Tuesday. Dr. Aiah Solomon Konoyeima, a doctor at a children's hospital in the capital of Freetown, tested positive on Monday.
Because they are at such a high risk of infection — and have often been asked to work without sufficient protective gear — health workers have frequently protested or gone on strike during the outbreak. On Monday, ambulance drivers and members of burial teams lined up Ebola corpses in body bags outside a hospital in Sierra Leone to protest the late payment of promised bonuses, according to Kamara. The bodies have since been brought back into the morgue at the hospital in the eastern district of Kenema.
Roy-Macaulay reported from Freetown, Sierra Leone.