Liberia plans to reopen schools in February, six months after the government ordered them closed because of the Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 3,400 people in the West African nation, an official said on Monday. 

The rate of new Ebola cases has slowed in recent weeks in Liberia where the government and international organizations with support from the United States stepped up efforts to stop the spread of the disease.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced at the weekend that schools would reopen on Feb. 2 but did not specify whether the measure would apply to the entire education system.

George Wuo, a director at the Education Ministry, said authorities were assessing around 500 schools across the country for reopening.

"We are negotiating with our partners for the distribution of non-contact thermometers and buckets for hand washing to all schools in the Republic of Liberia," Wuo said.

The school year was due to start in September but the government decided in August to keep students at home in order to prevent further spread of the disease.

Liberia, like its neighbors Sierra Leone and Guinea, imposed strict measures including closing markets, quarantining infected areas and limiting travel to stop the spread of Ebola.

More than 20,000 cases of the virus, which is transmitted through contact with bodily fluids, have been reported in the three countries, causing nearly 8,000 deaths.