African Union chiefs have called for travel bans imposed to stem the deadly Ebola epidemic to be lifted, even as the
World Health Organisation warned of thousands more infections in coming weeks.

"Member states should lift all travel bans...to open up economic activities," AU commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told reporters at an emergency meeting of the bloc in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa called to discuss Ebola on Monday.

But she said "proper screening mechanisms must be put in place".

The death toll from the Ebola epidemic - which is spreading across West Africa, with Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone the worst hit - has topped 2,000, with nearly 4,000 people now infected, the WHO said.

The UN agency warned Liberia faced "many thousands" of new Ebola cases in the next three weeks, a sharp rise from the current 2,000 people in the country who have been infected.

In the scramble to halt the contagion, some affected countries have quarantined whole regions, while others so far spared from the deadly virus, have halted flights.

Experts had warned that economic losses caused by the restrictions were adding to the continent's woes, with some arguing that travel bans even slowed medical help getting to affected areas.

Business interests

Top mining and resource-sector executives weighed in on Monday, saying the travel bans were "aggravating" the humanitarian crisis.

The CEOs of 11 firms operating in West Africa - including ArcelorMittal's Lakshmi Mittal and Randgold's Mark Bristow - said some measures were doing more harm than good.

Counting the Cost: Ebola Economics
"There is a risk the measures being taken to restrict travel to the countries most impacted by the virus will aggravate the growing humanitarian crisis," they said in a joint statement.

Dlamini-Zuma told the AU meeting of the urgent need to "craft a united, comprehensive and collective African response" to the outbreak.

But she also warned that in the battle to stop the spread, "we must be careful not to introduce measures that may have more... social and economic impact than the disease itself."

Border restrictions were hampering trade and food prices were rising, she said, echoing the UN's warning of serious foot shortages in the worst-hit countries.

Lifting travel bans would be up to individual nations, according to the pan-African bloc, which is also sending medical teams to help stem Ebola's spread.

Source: Agencies