Liberia churches celebrate end of Ebola

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MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Drumbeats echoed across Liberia's capital on Sunday as Christian leaders heeded the president's call to celebrate the eradication of Ebola in the country following a horrific outbreak that claimed more than 4,700 lives in this West African nation.

At New Covenant Outreach Ministries Incorporated, a fast-growing Pentecostal church in Monrovia, choir leader Ester Tamba led the congregation in a standing ovation to mark 42 days of no Ebola cases. That is twice as long as the maximum incubation period for the disease, and means an outbreak is officially over.

For the first time in a year, worshippers were not forced to have their temperatures taken before entering the church.

Yet not everything was back to normal. The traditional round of hugs and handshakes at the end of the Sunday service — which was stopped last year out of fear it could spread Ebola — was not reinstated, and Reverend Venicious Reeves said he was "not in any rush" to resume it.

"We don't want to discourage the tradition, at the same time we don't want to rush to reintroduce those practices now . So we will keep the hygienic measures in place for now," he said.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf visited health centers on Saturday to praise the efforts of doctors and nurses, and an official government celebration is planned for Monday. At the same time, officials have warned about new cases of Ebola that continue to be reported in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone.

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