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Timely move against Ebola outbreak

Aug 11, 2014, 9:56 AM

The Gambia government has done the right thing, also at the right time, in banning the ferrying of air passengers into the country from the areas in West Africa affected by the Ebola virus disease.

We highlight in this edition the fact that the government last Thursday sent a letter to the management of four local airline companies, instructing them not to pick up passengers in Freetown, Monrovia and Conakry coming to Banjul.

This order is to be carried out “with immediate effect and until further notice”.

The government’s move comes at about the same time UN WHO declared, on Friday, that the current Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is “a public health emergency of international concern”.

This WHO announcement was definitely the green-light for states everywhere to take measures such as banning flights to and from the affected areas.

An earlier flight ban by the Gambian authorities was quietly rescinded, after WHO at that time said it was not in favour of such prohibitions.

In any case, according to local news reports, the government ministries of health and transport last Wednesday jointly convened an emergency meeting in Banjul, and cautioned airline operators in the country to adjust to international health regulations…or else face suspension of operations in the country.”

One report quoted the minister of health as declaring that the Ebola crisis has taken a different dimension, and further stating that “the only way for airlines to continue operations between The Gambia and affected countries would be for them to put in place all the required gadgets at the airport by the week-end or else the government would take its stand.”

It is evident the Gambia government has now taken a stand, as are governments everywhere!

Meanwhile, we understand, from what we have been hearing from our national health authorities, that there is increased vigilance including at our land borders to stop persons with the Ebola virus from coming in undetected.

It is clear from news reports that all countries are on the alert, to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus disease.

Now that WHO has spoken, it is an emergency all countries will now give the attention it deserves; and in terms of preventive measures, a responsibility which every government including our own is taking very seriously.

We trust the international community will rise to the challenge, and contain the virus and stop the outbreak in West Africa from becoming a global emergency.

“Given the scale of issues like global warming and epidemic disease, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a can-do attitude to science rather than a can’t-afford-it attitude”.

Martin Rees