FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Sierra Leone has passed a new law imposing possible jail time for anyone caught hiding an Ebola patient – a common practice that the World Health Organization believes has contributed to a major underestimation of the current outbreak.

The new law, passed Friday, imposes prison terms of up to two years for violators, said lawmaker Ansumana Jaiah Kaikai. It now goes for presidential approval.

He said the measure was necessary to compel residents to cooperate with government officials, noting that some residents had resisted steps to combat Ebola and build isolation centers.

A total of 2,615 infections and 1,427 deaths have been recorded in the Ebola outbreak now hitting West Africa, according to figures released Friday by the World Health Organization. Sierra Leone has had at least 910 cases and 392 deaths.

But these numbers don’t capture all Ebola cases because families hide patients, fearing high fatality rates and the stigma that comes with a positive diagnosis, the U.N. health agency said.

New treatment centers in Liberia are being overwhelmed by patients that had not been previously identified, suggesting an “invisible caseload” that is going undetected, the WHO said Friday.

Ivory Coast announced late Friday it was closing its land borders with Guinea and Liberia. Gabon, Senegal, South Africa and Cameroon have all imposed border restrictions on some or all of the four countries with confirmed Ebola cases – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

On Saturday, the Philippine government said it was recalling 115 peacekeepers from Liberia.


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