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IATA appeals for airlines to halt isolation of Ebola-hit nations

Airlines should maintain services to Ebola-hit regions which need connections with the outside world in order to fight the disease, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Monday after more carriers put flights on hold.

The industry needs only to screen passengers at airports in infected areas, apply rigorous procedures including isolation when handling suspected cases, and fully disinfect planes afterwards, IATA, said, citing World Health Organisation advice that aviation constitutes a “low risk” for Ebola transmission.

“They have been very clear that travel and trade bans are unnecessary,” Raphael Kuuchi, IATA’s vice president for Africa, told the body’s Africa Aviation Day conference in Johannesburg. “Unless this advice changes we hope that countries working hard to eradicate Ebola continue to benefit from air connectivity.”

IATA issued the plea after Kenya Airways, Africa’s third-largest carrier, said this weekend it would stop flying to Liberia and Sierra Leone, which together with Guinea are the focus of the Ebola outbreak, from Tuesday on the advice of the Kenyan health ministry. That’s after Korean Air Lines Company said it would end flights to Nairobi on August 20 because of the risk of infection spreading there via services from West Africa.

Cameroon also said on August 16 it would no longer allow flights from Ebola-hit states, with Public Health Minister Andre Mama Fouda saying that “control has equally been tightened in all health districts, at the borders, airports and sea ports.”

Among operators closer to the Ebola outbreak, Gambia Bird, Togo-based Asky Airlines and Nigeria’s Arik Air had all earlier halted at least some flights into the area. Among major carriers. British Airways and Emirates also scrapped services.

“Ebola is a terrible disease but it is not easy to contract,” Kuuchi said in Johannesburg. “It can only be caught through contact with bodily fluids. It is almost impossible to be infected by someone on a flight.”

IATA represents 240 airlines constituting 84% of global traffic.– Bloomberg

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