Ebola
A medical worker wearing protective clothing relays patient details in Kailahun, a Sierra Leone district at the epicentre of the world's worst Ebola outbreak. At least 1,768 have died in the country since last JanuaryCARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images

Officials in Sierra Leone have banned Christmas and New Year celebrations in a bid to halt the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the country, AFP reported.

Sierra Leone country profile

Official name: Republic of Sierra Leone

Capital: Freetown

Official language: English

President: Ernest Bai Koroma

Population: 6.092 million

Major ethnic groups: Temne 30%, Mende 30%, Limba 8%, Kono 5%

Religions: Muslims 60%, indigenous beliefs 30%, Christian 10%

Life expectancy: 45/46 (WHO statistics)

Physicians Density: 0.016 physicians/1,000 population

Hospital Bed Density: 0.4%

Health expenditures: 13.1% of GDP

Sierra Leone is one of three west African nations, together with Liberia and Guinea, that have been the most hit by the Ebola outbreak, which has killed nearly 7,000 people since last January.

The National Ebola Response Committee (NERC) said on Friday (12 December) that Sierra Leoneans will not be able to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

It added that soldiers are to be deployed to the streets throughout the festive period, preventing people from leaving their houses.

The announcement came a day after President Ernest Bai Koroma said that due to the outbreak, the economy has slowed down as people do not leave their homes due to travel restrictions applied throughout the country.

According to the World Health Organization's (WHO) latest estimates, Sierra Leone reported 397 new confirmed cases in the first week of December and at least 1,768 people have died in the country so far.

In November, WHO said that Sierra Leone had no Ebola-free district.

Ebola is spread by contact with infected bodily fluids. Its symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, and body aches.

The virus, dubbed by some "the new Aids", is causing growing concern worldwide, as hundreds of people are dying every day in west Africa.