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21 Aug 2014 20:30
An Ebola information billboard displayed near the John F Kennedy memorial medical centre in Monrovia, Liberia. (AFP)
South Africa became the newest in a line of countries to
institute travel bans due to the worsening Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
On Thursday health minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced a
travel ban on non-residents entering South Africa, from the three worst
afflicted countries, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.
All non-residents travelling from these countries, deemed
“high risk” by Cabinet, are banned from entering South Africa, unless the
travel is “absolutely essential”, Motsoaledi said.
All South African citizens wishing to travel to these countries will be asked
to postpone their travel, unless it too, is deemed essential.
Stringent testsCitizens returning from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone will
have to be subjected to more stringent tests upon re-entering South Africa’s
This includes completing a comprehensive health
questionnaire before re-entry. If the questionnaire and a temperature screening
reveal something untoward, travellers will have to subject themselves to a full
For travellers from countries deemed “medium risk” namely
Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia, normal surveillance will be enhanced the minister
Kenya and Ethiopia, have no reports of Ebola yet, however, most travellers entering local borders, from West Africa come through these
On Wednesday the World Health Organisation revised its
estimates of the Ebola death toll upward. It said a total of 2 473
confirmed, probable and suspected cases of the disease have been reported,
alongside 1 350 deaths. Nigeria, has an estimated 15 cases, and four deaths,
however it is viewed as being better equipped to contain the virus. The other
three countries, however, are among the poorest in Africa, and lacked both the
technical capacity and financial resources to contain Ebola’s spread, which
began in December last year.
The virus is spread through contact with bodily
fluids, such as blood, and has no known cure.
The WHO has advised countries however to limit travel
and flight bans relating to Ebola – in the face of growing international panic.
Organisations such as the International Air Transport
Association (IATA) have also called on countries not to impose flight bans the
affected nations, to enable them to better fight the disease.
The scare has already negatively impacted on South
Africa, although it is geographically distant from the outbreak’s epicenter,
and has better health care systems, expertise and resources.
Earlier this week the Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA)
reportedly said that 1 500 Thai tourists had cancelled a trip to South Africa due
to Ebola fears, while smaller groups from other Asian countries such as Japan,
China and Malaysia had done the same.
But Motsoaledi said the virus had been declared an
emergency around the world and “countries have got a right to do whatever they
think is within their power to protect their citizens”.
Despite the WHO’s advice many countries had instituted
travel bans anyway he pointed out.
South Africa was “erring on the side of caution” he
said, by taking pro-active measures to prevent ad hoc responses to the outbreak.
Government was also responding to the concerns of neighbouring
countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), he said.
“If there is going to be any breach in South Africa,
then the whole region is affected,” Motsoaledi said.
Entry point for SADC countriesSouth Africa was an entry point for many travellers to
other SADC countries, which relied on our facilities he said. There had been
requests from SADC ministers to take stringent measures to safeguard the
The department will also be holding a meeting on
Friday with mines, communications, security and retail firms with operations in
region, and who have citizens employed there.
Retailers such as Massmart and the Shoprite Checkers
group have stores in Nigeria, while MTN has operation in both Nigeria and
This was because, increasingly, the cases that the
department dealt with, concerned their employees he said.
He referred to the recent scare surrounding a man who
had been working as a mine security officer in Liberia. He had returned to
South African and began complaining of a fever. The man, currently in a stable
condition at the Charlotte Maxeke Academic hospital, has tested negative for
Ebola as well as several other viral hemorrhagic diseases
The special meeting was needed to agree on clear
protocols that might be expected from these companies with regard to their
workers he said.
Cabinet has also acceded to a department of health
request for additional funding, setting aside R32.5
million, to support containment and prevent further spread of
the virus to South Africa and other countries
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