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Ebola: How the Virus has Affected International Travel
November 5, 2014
The Ebola virus has caused a tremendous worldwide shake up. The rigorous measures being implemented by several nations may not only inhibit the development of any medical treatment, but these restrictive moves may also affect the import and export industries. The effects of which can only be measured in the near future. The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday warned against ‘unnecessarily’ strict restrictions. One must ask whether countries have taken travel restrictions too far, or are these measures justified in order to protect the masses?
Western travel bans and restrictions
Australia has prompted immense outrage by becoming the first Western country to ban visitors from the Ebola-hit areas of Africa. Even amid warnings that the restrictions could make it harder to fight the deadly disease. In this dramatic move announced last week, the Australian government said they would refuse entry to anyone travelling from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leona – the countries that have been most severely hit by the epidemic.
The decision was announced by the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison, who told the Australian Parliament that the government’s processes were ‘working to protect Australians’. Under the strict administration, Australia will not issue new visas and will cancel temporary ones. Those with permanent Australian visas and are yet to arrive in the country, will only be allowed to fly after 21-day quarantine prior to departure.
Australia has been criticized for this move, as there have been no known cases of the virus in Australia to date. Liberia’s president urged Australia to reconsider their decision, whilst the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that travel restrictions could completely hinder efforts to beat Ebola.
This unprecedented move came during calls from U.S. Republicans for a travel ban to be imposed in the U.S., which has been resisted by the President. However the U.S. announced that any passengers beginning their travels in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea will only be able to enter the country through the following airports: JFK International Airport (New York State), Newark International Airport (New Jersey), Dulles International Airport (Washington DC), Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (Georgia) or Chicago O’Hare International Airport (Illinois).
Canada is reported as the second western country to follow in on Australia’s line of defence, as they too have barred all travellers entering from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leona.
Measures in the UK
Who is to say whether the decisions taken by Australia and Canada will influence other western countries?
It is fair to say at this point that the United Kingdom according to GOV.UK have taken necessary measures to prevent the spreading of the virus, both abroad and here in the UK.
The Chief Medical Officer has recommended enhanced screening arrangements at the UK’s main ports of entry for people travelling from the affected regions.
Screening has been implemented at London’s Heathrow airport and will soon be expanded to include Gatwick airport and Eurostar terminals. This will involve assessing the passengers:
· Recent travel history;
· Who they have been in contact with and;
· Where they are going next, as well as a possible medical assessment.
Medical assessments will be carried out by trained medical staff as opposed to Border Force staff. Passengers will also be given advice on what to do, should they develop symptoms later. These measures have also been implemented in other European countries, North America and in West Africa.
Other Global Entry Restrictions
Many African nations and some nations across the Americas have implemented entry restrictions in order to curb the spread of Ebola. Flight bans (amongst other entry restrictions) have been particularly enforced by Gambia, Gabon, and Cameroon.
The following nations are reported as imposing entry restrictions such as banning flights and refusal to issue visas for nationals of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. These are Belize, Antigua and Barbuda Island, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Jamaica, Colombia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Kenya, Cape Verde, Mauritius, Seychelles, Equatorial Guinea, and Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states, South Sudan, Namibia, Gambia, Gabon, Chad, Mauritania, Rwanda, Senegal, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Panama, St Maarten, and Suriname.
Singapore has announced that nationals from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone will require visas to enter the country. They have also mentioned that nationals from the aforementioned countries as well as those from Congo (DRC) and Mali will be screened at all entry points. Travellers that have recently visited these countries will also be screened.
North Korea has also banned foreign tourists from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the ban applies to all entry points and border crossings.
It has also been reported in mainstream news, that some airlines have restricted flights to and from Ebola-affected countries. The following airlines have suspended flights into the three most Ebola affected countries, and these are Air France, Arik Air, British Airways, Emirates Airline, Korean Air, and Senegal Airlines. Royal Air Maroc and Brussels Airlines have both modified their routes; however they are still operating their regular scheduled services. It is worth checking airline carrier websites before you travel.
In summary, it seems that the general advice is to defer non-essential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. People traveling from countries affected by Ebola should speak with their relevant embassies or health ministries about any requirements for entry at their destination. Allow additional time at airports to pass through enhanced medical screening and do not travel if you are sick as persons with Ebola-like symptoms may be put in quarantine or have entry denied.