A market in the Liberian capital Monrovia became the scene of a dramatic standoff as a man infected with Ebola, who had slipped past health workers and security at a treatment centre to look for food, was promptly reined in.
The man, identified by a wristband indicating he had tested positive for the disease, approached the market looking for food but was shunned by some stall owners as he approached them for service.
Soon after appearing at the market, health workers were notified and quickly arrived to chaperone him back to the facility with a small crowd following at a distance cheering the protective gear-clad health workers. After trying to convince him to return voluntarily without any success the health workers had to use some force to move the man into a waiting ambulance.
The Ebola patient is said to not have displayed any outward symptoms of the disease.
The patient, so far unidentified by name, escaped from Monrovia's Elwa hospital, which has come to be largely associated with the deadly outbreak. Last month it was reported that Elwa hospital was turning away patients because of overcrowding and a lack of adequate facilities to deal with the crisis.
Liberian media sources quote a local resident who disclosed that patients leaving the facility to look for food is not a new phenomenon. "The patients are hungry, they are starving. No food, no water. The government needs to do more. Let Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf do more" the resident bemoaned.
There has been widespread panic buying, a shortage of staple foods and severe price hikes in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia since movement restrictions were imposed to stop the spread of the virus.
And despite an emergency program launched by the United Nations’ World Food Programme to send 65,000 tonnes of supplies to deprived areas, many patients in quarantined areas are reportedly starving.
At least 1,552 people have been killed by the current Ebola outbreak with 3,062 patients infected overall, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.
The UN agency has warned that more than 20,000 people could be infected with the virus before a solution is found to curb the deadly outbreak.