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September 9, 2014

Should Ebola-Affected Countries Lift Travel Bans?

According to the Guardian, the director general of the World Health Organization has said that the ongoing Ebola epidemic in Africa will take at least six to nine month to die down and is set to cost more than $600 million. Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone have reported approximately 3,500 cases and 1,900 deaths. The latest spread is to Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

While the epidemic continues to spread and claim lives, airline routes to affected countries have been dropped—causing economic hardships not only for those countries, but for others throughout the continent. With increased 

WHO assistant director general for global health security, Keiji Fukuda, told the paper that the closures have had "a huge impact," impeding the flow of experts and supplies into Africa. 

Fukuda pointed out that WHO had not recommended any travel restrictions, "except in cases where individuals have been confirmed or are suspected of being infected with Ebola virus disease or where individuals have had contact with cases of Ebola."

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that some African countries have agreed to lift travel bans on people arriving from Ebola-hit nations in a step to help the economic damage the virus has caused. Private business ventures in the regions are also speaking out against the travel bans: According to Al Jazeera, 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.

In a statement, African Union Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said that each country would have to decide to lift the bans, and that "thorough border checks" for people displaying Ebola-like symptoms should replace blanket bans of those arriving from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

South Africa and Kenya already have such bans in place, effectively isolating the three West African nations battling Ebola, as O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg and Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi are the continent's two major transportation hubs.

A spokesman for the South African health ministry said that there was currently no plan to lift the ban, but that this could change in coming days. 

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