Ebola: SA imposes total and partial bans on travel
South Africa has taken the decision to impose a total travel
ban for all non-citizens traveling from identified high risk countries to limit
the spread of Ebola to the country, unless the travel is considered absolutely
Addressing media at a briefing in Pretoria, Health Minister
Aaron Motsoaledi said in addition, citizens of South Africa who wish to travel
to these countries will be requested to delay their travel unless it is also
absolutely essential for them to travel.
The high-risk countries are Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia –
with Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia being identified as medium risk.
He said the travel advisory was part of enhanced
precautionary measures to prevent the spread of Ebola into South Africa.
“All South Africans are hereby advised to avoid
non-essential travel to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone. South Africans are not
restricted from travelling to these countries, however all returning travellers
from these countries will be subjected to rigorous screening and medical
assessments before being allowed entry into the country,” said the minister.
He said South African citizens returning from these
countries will have to be subjected to a stricter screening process.
This will include completing a comprehensive health
questionnaire before gaining entry back into the country and if the
comprehensive medical questionnaire and the temperature screening reveal
something, they will have to subject themselves to a complete medical
Minister Motsoaledi said all travellers and crew members
arriving into South African Points of Entry must have completed a travel health
questionnaire upon arrival.
“If found to have any of the symptoms or signs suggestive of
Ebola, they will be referred to one of the designated hospitals for further
investigations and management,” he said.
Passengers who travelled from or through Guinea, Liberia or
Sierra Leone within the last month of arrival into South Arica must undergo
additional screening at the Points of Entry.
The minister was briefing media following Cabinet’s meeting
on Wednesday, where he presented an update on the Ebola outbreak.
Over 1000 people have died from the virus in West Africa,
according to the World Health Organisation. Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone
have each declared the outbreak a national disaster.
“Cabinet noted with concern the extent of the outbreak and
the increase of cases in three of these countries, i.e. Guinea, Sierra Leone
and Liberia, over the last week.
“Cabinet recognised that even though the outbreak has been
limited to these countries in West Africa, the spread to other countries needs
to be contained,” said Minister Motsoaledi.
He said Cabinet recognised that containing the outbreak at
the source will be essential and limit the spread and mortality caused by the
disease to these particular parts of the world.
Countries have been divided into three categories, namely
high risk which includes Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, medium risk which
includes Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia-
although some of them do not have Ebola yet; most people travelling from West Africa to South
Africa travel via these countries as well as low risk countries.
“For medium and low risk countries, the normal surveillance
that has been going on will just be enhanced.
“There is a special category of individuals who are South
Africans but work there in the mines, communications, security and retail. For
these groups, we have called a special meeting tomorrow, which will deal with
their unique situation,” explained the minister.
He said at the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, a decision was
taken to establish an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) to deal with the
coordination of the response.
“Cabinet further approved funding requested by the
Department of Health to the tune of R32.5 million, from the African Renaissance
Fund to support containment and prevent further spread of the virus to South
Africa and other countries.
“Part of the funds will be used to deploy the mobile
laboratory in Sierra Leone, fund transport and accommodation for the team and
training for health care workers.”
The Minister said the department had taken measures to
enhance surveillance, distribute guidelines to all hospitals in public and
private sectors, designate health facilities for the treatment of patients,
deployed personal protective equipment (PPE) to designated facilities,
conducted training, activated outbreak response teams and is operating a
hotline for clinicians through the NICD.
Regarding the patient from Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in
Johannesburg that was suspected of having the virus, the Minister once again
reiterated that his results for Ebola tested negative.
EBOLA SCARE NOW ALSO AFFECTING SA TOURISM DESPITE ASSURANCES
Fears are mounting that the South African tourism
industry may not only be badly affected by new immigration and visa regulations,
but now also by the Ebola scare, which has already prompted tourists and
business people from Brazil and Asia to cancel their trips to the country and
Newspaper reports say that a number of tourists have
cancelled their plans to travel to SA in August, September and October and have
cited the virus as a reason for the cancellation.
Executive head of the Southern African Tourism Services
Association (SATSA), has confirmed (to Die Burger newspaper) that a group of 1
500 tourists from Thailand, have cancelled their trip, while a number of smaller
groups from around Asia have done the same.
News24 reports that tour operators are concerned that if
someone should test positive in SA it would create mass hysteria and further
hurt tourism. They say Chinese tourists are very health conscious and get easily
put off when a health scare arisies. Another group from Brazil cancelled a trip
to Namibia to attend a conference there.
Fact is that, to date, there have been no positive
results in SA or Namibia.
Last week a woman who arrived in SA from Guinea was
found to be negative after undergoing tests for the deadly virus, while on
Sunday another man – a health worker - who had arrived back from Liberia was
also brought in for testing, which also proved negative.
Travellers from South Africa and the rest of Africa now
require a health certificate to enter Indonesia, as a result of the Ebola
outbreak. Airlines seem to be largely unaware of the new requirement. Passengers
without correct documentation risk being denied entry into the country when
applying for a visa-on-arrival.
Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia in Cape Town and the embassy in
Pretoria have advised travellers bound for Indonesia that they now require a
health certificate from their local health practitioner to confirm they are not
infected with the Ebola virus as part of the visa requirement process.
South Africa is located thousands of miles from the
Ebola infected West African countries and poses no threat to tourism in South
Africa. This was pointed out
by SA Communications Minister Faith
Muthambi who on Tuesday said South Africa remained the destination of choice for
cases of the Ebola virus have been reported in the country, and government is
confident of the systems and protocols that are in place to address any
incidence of the virus."
was responding an article in The Times about the Asian cancellations
is unfortunate that the newspaper would choose to report that a handful of
tourists cancelled their trip due to fears, which according to the report are
based on erroneous facts about the virus."
Muthambi said the risk of Ebola being introduced into
South Africa remained low and the tourism industry remained vibrant and
Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has made
it clear that he has no intention of changing South Africa’s new immigration
regulations and has failed to respond to several requests by tourism and airline
organisations to meet with them and discuss their concerns.
TBCSA requested a meeting with the Minister last month, but Gigaba will not set
a date and it is unclear whether the minister has any intention to meet with the
Nicknamed by many as the “Tourism Terminator” in the
general, trade as well as the social media, Gigaba remains unwavering in his
determination to see the regulations implemented as planned at a briefing last
“With regard to Immigration Regulations, I think when
people are finished with complaining, they must comply. Let me be very clear
about this,” said Gigaba. “There is absolutely no way that we are going to
change these regulations.”
think we need to balance; and that is what we are trying to do; to strike a
correct balance because South Africa will never have tourism if we become a
society of mass crimes,” said Gigaba.
Gigaba also questioned whether the regulations would
deter tourists from coming to SA. “The interesting thing … is that the countries
that are sending South Africa more tourists are those that require visas to come
to South Africa and those that have visa exemptions are sending fewer tourists,”
the argument, therefore, is that applying for a visa is a deterrent to tourism,
why is it that countries with visa exemptions are sending fewer tourists than
those where they must apply for visas?”
According to figures provided by Statistics SA, the
country’s largest source markets for 2013 were the UK, the US and Germany – all
Also concerned is the International Air Transport
Association (Iata) which on Tuesday said it would meet with the Ministry of Home
Affairs to discuss concerns relating to some of the new immigration requirements
and their implementation to ensure that these did not lead to “unintended
consequences harmful to air connectivity”.
Questioned at the Iata Aviation Day Africa Conference
held in Sandton on Monday and Tuesday on whether the proposed stringent new
immigration laws would hamper the African aviation industry’s objective of
improving air connectivity, Raphael Kuuchi, vice-president: Africa at Iata,
commented: “Government regulation plays a vital role in air connectivity and it
can either enable greater connectivity, or it can suppress it. Wherever
possible, Iata works with governments to ensure that regulations — often
implemented with good intentions — do not lead to unintended consequences
harmful to air connectivity."
noted that the South African government’s initiative to take up the battle
against child trafficking had to be commended. “However, we have engaged the
Ministry of Home Affairs to discuss concerns relating to some of the new
requirements and their implementation so that we can gain a better understanding
of South Africa’s Government’s plans to communicate, implement and enforce the
new requirements,” Kuuchi said.
With Die Burger, The Times,
Business Day, SABC News, SA News, News24, Tourism Update, Travel Buyer and
Another Ebola problem: Finding its natural source
Learn everything you need to know about the infectious disease Ebola with this title.
Washington - A scary
problem lurks beyond the frenzied efforts to keep people from spreading
Ebola: No one knows exactly where the virus comes from or how to stop it
from seeding new outbreaks.
Ebola has caused two dozen outbreaks
in Africa since it first emerged in 1976. It is coming from somewhere -
probably bats - but experts agree they need to pinpoint its origins in
That has had to wait until they can tame the current
outbreak, which has claimed more than 1 100 lives in four countries -
the worst toll from Ebola in history.
"First and foremost get the
outbreak under control. Once that piece is resolved, then go back and
find what the source is," said Jonathan Towner, a scientist who helped
find the bat source of another Ebola-like disease called Marburg. Towner
works for the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Others say finding Ebola's origins is more than a down-the-road scientific curiosity.
the source would definitely be important," said Dr Richard Wenzel, a
Virginia Commonwealth University scientist who formerly led the
International Society for Infectious Diseases.
some of the biggest wins against infectious diseases have involved not
just limiting person-to-person spread, but also finding and controlling
the sources in nature fueling new cases.
Plague was halted after
the germ was tied to rat-riding fleas. With the respiratory disease
SARS, civet cats played a role. With typhus it was lice, and with bird
flu, live poultry markets. Efforts to control MERS, a virus causing
sporadic outbreaks in the Middle East, include exploring the role of
Eating, handling infected animals
the case of Ebola, health experts think the initial cases in each
outbreak get it from eating or handling infected animals. They think the
virus may come from certain bats, and in parts of Africa, bats are
considered a delicacy.
But bats may not be the whole story or the creature that spread it to humans.
World Health Organisation lists chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, forest
antelope and porcupines as possibly playing a role. Even pig farms may
amplify infection because of fruit bats on the farms, the WHO says.
not clear what the animal is. It's going to take a lot of testing,"
said Dr Robert Gaynes, an Emory University infectious disease specialist
who worked for the CDC for more than 20 years.
Part of the puzzle
is how long the virus has been in West Africa. Previous outbreaks have
been in the east and central regions of the continent.
outbreak began in rural Guinea, and the first suspected first case was a
2-year-old child who died in Gueckedou prefecture in December,
researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine in April. They
did not speculate on how the child may have become infected.
scientists think the virus has been lurking in the area for years. They
point to the case of a lone scientist who got sick in 1994 after doing
an autopsy on a wild chimpanzee in Ivory Coast and to a recent study
that explored the possibility that past Ebola cases in the region have
Scientists in the United States and Sierra Leone
looked back at hundreds of blood samples that were sent to a testing
laboratory in eastern Sierra Leone from 2006 through 2008. The samples
initially were checked only for Lassa fever, which is common in West
Africa. But when the scientists recently went back and tested for other
infections, they found nearly 9% was Ebola.
One or more types of
Ebola virus have "probably been there in the mix" for some time but for
some reason didn't explode into a widespread epidemic in West Africa
until this year, said Stephen Morse, a Columbia University infectious
Ebola's jump from
animals to people is thought to be rare. Experts say there may be a
large degree of bad luck in becoming infected - in a cave associated
with a Marburg outbreak, Towner found the virus in only 3% of bats he
tested. Even if an animal source is clearly identified and people are
warned, "there is always likely to be an occasional exposure - someone
who drives off the highway, in essence," Morse said.
But with other diseases, control measures have paid off.
2003, when civet cats were tied to SARS, "you could just see the
potential for animal-to-human spread" in live animal markets where they
were sold and butchered for food, and control of those markets in
southern China helped limit the outbreak, said Dr Jeffrey Koplan, an
Emory University professor and former head of the CDC.
"If you can
eliminate the market either by providing substitute protein sources" or
outlawing the sale of that meat, "you can have an impact", Koplan said.
That's tough unless you can provide other food, Towner said.
"It can be a hard sell" to convince people trying to feed families to stay away from something possibly dangerous, he said.
SAMHS ready if Ebola appears
Written by defenceWeb, Friday, 15 August 2014
South African soldiers deployed continentally on peacekeeping and peace support operations need have no fear about Ebola. The SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) has a sophisticated system in place, including a portable isolation capability, to deal with the highly contagious disease.
Additionally, according to SA National Defence Force (SANDF) director: corporate communications, Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, all three the country’s military hospitals, especially I Military in Thaba Tshwane, are geared “to received and isolate any suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola Viral Disease (EVD)”.
He said SAMHS in collaboration with the National Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases is continuously monitoring the EVD outbreak in West Africa.
“A contingency plan is in place to manage any outbreak of EVD in South Africa as well as in mission areas where the SANDF is deployed,” he said.
The portable isolation capability - a negative pressure room isolating system – is rated “highly sophisticated” he said.
“A formal training programme for isolating serious risk patients has been running for several years and SAMHS has a large group of trained healthcare professionals to implement high-level isolation.
“A strategic stockpile of protective clothing has been released from the SAMHS Depot and was distributed by SAMHS to all government hospitals identified by the Minister of Health in the country, military hospitals and to mission areas.
“A screening process, in line with the process implemented at International airports in South Africa, has also been implemented at AFB Waterkloof and AFB Bloemspruit for international flights returning from external deployments.
“In collaboration with the private sector, healthcare information on diagnosing EVD has been distributed within the SANDF. Sickbays managing members returning from external deployments have been cautioned to be alert to possible EVD cases,” Mabanga said adding there was “close co-operation” between government, private and military health sectors to manage an EVD outbreak either in South Africa or continental mission areas where the SANDF is deployed.
“The Office of the Surgeon General, Lieutenant General Aubrey Sedibe, has also compiled and issued an internal information bulletin on EVD. This is distributed on all internal SANDF communication platforms,” Mabanga said.
National carrier, SAA, will continue flights to West African destinations, an airline spokesman said earlier this week.
The decision is in line with the position adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and IATA (International air Transport Association).
SAA has stepped up measures to protect passengers, air crew and ground staff.
These include checking for passengers who show specific symptoms associated with EVD, isolating them and having tests done by health authorities.
Aircraft are also equipped with protective gear and biohazard waste disposal kits.
“SAA flies to five destinations in West Africa, Abidjan in Ivory Coast; Accra in Ghana; Cotonou, Benin; Dakar, Senegal and Lagos in Nigeria. There is no travel ban to any of these destinations as a result of the outbreak of the virus in that region.
“The airline remains committed to ensuring the enforcement of international health protocols associated with air transport.
“SAA will remain in communication with local health authorities and monitor the situation on a continuous basis. This will enable the airline to constantly do risk assessment and review its decisions should there be developments that warrant such a review.
“SAA would like to urge everyone travelling to the West African region to take the necessary precaution and be vigilant,” SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said. WHO allays fears about air travel
- The United Nations World Health Organisation (WHO) has allayed fears amid
reports that airlines are suspending flights over the Ebola outbreak, by sending
out social media messages with assurances that “unlike infections like influenza
and tuberculosis, Ebola is not airborne”.
chance of having someone who is sick with Ebola getting in a plane is small,”
WHO tweeted on Thursday. “Usually when someone is sick with Ebola, they are so
unwell that they can't travel.”
agency, which also had a press conference providing "clarifications" on air
travel, has declared the current outbreak in West Africa a public health
emergency of international concern.
Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon has appointed Dr. David Nabarro as Senior United
Nations System Coordinator for Ebola, in support of the work done by WHO
Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan and her team.
to the latest WHO update, between 10 and 11 August, 128 new cases of Ebola virus
disease, as well as 56 deaths, were reported from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and
Sierra Leone, bringing the total number of cases to 1 975 and deaths to 1
agency said in the update that contact tracing in Guinea, Nigeria, and Sierra
Leone has resulted in a range between 94 percent and 98 percent of contacts of
Ebola cases being identified and followed-up, but in Liberia, efforts are
underway to strengthen contact tracing, but help is needed in this
said it was disappointed when airlines stop flying to West Africa. It is “hard
to save lives if we and other health workers cannot get in,” the health agency
tweeted following a press conference.
countries, international airlines are putting systems in place to screen
passengers for possible infection. Countries with big airports with high volumes
of travellers are not the same as countries with land borders with
Ebola-affected countries,” WHO said.
has repeatedly said the Ebola virus is highly contagious – but not airborne.
Transmission requires close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected
person, as can occur during health-care procedures, home care, or traditional
burial practices, which involve the close contact of family members and friends
incubation period ranges from 2 to 21 days, but patients become contagious only
after the onset of symptoms. As symptoms worsen, the ability to transmit the
a result, patients are usually most likely to infect others at a severe stage of
the disease, when they are visibly, and physically, too ill to
highest Ebola virus level is found in a dead body, according to WHO, hence,
currently the highest risk of Ebola transmission is during burial
continues to fly to West Africa
on Thursday, South African Airways (SAA) said they would continue operating in
airline said the Emergency Committee of WHO on the Ebola outbreak held a meeting
in Geneva from 6 - 7 August. The meeting, said SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali,
concluded that there “should be no general ban on international travel or trade”
to that region.
noted the announcement by WHO, SAA has stepped up measures aimed at protecting
its passengers, crew and ground staff,” said Tlali.
flies to five destinations in West Africa, namely Abidjan (Ivory Coast); Accra
(Ghana); Cotonou (Benin); Dakar (Senegal) and Lagos
is no travel ban to any of these destinations as a result of the outbreak of the
virus in that region. The airline remains committed to ensuring the enforcement
of international health protocols associated with air transport,” said
measures include ensuring that the airline has in place vigilant staff that will
be on the lookout for passengers who bear specific and visible symptoms
associated with the Ebola virus. SAA staff is adequately trained to manage
incidents of this nature, should a need to do so arise.
cases where a passenger may bear visible symptoms associated with the infection
at check-in, such passengers will be isolated from the others. This will be
followed with passenger interviews and tests conducted by the health authorities
in order to determine the possible cause of the symptoms.
the event that there is any doubt regarding the medical condition of any
suspected passenger, SAA may elect to deny such passenger/s to board its
cases where passengers develop symptoms after the aircraft has commenced its
flight, the crew on board will initiate specific procedures that include
isolating such passengers from others on board the aircraft,” said
will eliminate possible physical interaction of affected passengers with other
of SAA’s aircraft has been equipped with special protective gear for crew on
board to wear and to enable them to respond to any passengers suspected of
having been infected, or displaying the listed symptoms that include sweating,
nose bleeding or vomiting.
is also a special biohazard waste disposal kit intended for the safe disposal of
will remain in communication with its local health authorities and will monitor
the situation on a continuous basis. This will enable the airline to constantly
do risk assessment and review its decisions, should there be developments that
warrant such a review.
would like to urge everyone travelling to the West African region to take the
necessary precaution and be vigilant,” said Tlali.
sign of Ebola in SA
on Thursday, South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi dismissed claims
that the Ebola Virus Disease had arrived in South Africa.
after the Democratic Alliance’s Jack Bloem caused a public panic with claims
that a lady, from Guinea, who went into labour at the Rahima Moosa Hospital,
west of Johannesburg, had contracted the disease.
Minister said the lady tested negative for the disease and there is still no
sign of the disease in the country.
did not even have symptoms…” he said.
did the PCR on the lady and she is negative -- that’s the normal test that the
National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) does for Ebola. We still
took precautions… we did the serology, although it was not necessary, and it was
also negative,” said Minister Motsoaledi on Thursday.
test, called DoD EZ1 Real-time RT-PCR Assay, is designed for use on individuals
who have symptoms of Ebola infection, who are at risk for exposure or who may
have been exposed.
added that no one should panic because there was no reason to. –
Ebola-hit S/Leone sanitizes transport sector
The government in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone has launched a spirited campaign to prevent more people from contracting the deadly virus while using the country’s overcrowded public transport system.
The local press on Wednesday quoted a statement by the Ministry of Transport as prohibiting overloading, which is a common feature of commercial transport vehicles plying routes from the capital Freetown to other parts of the country.
‘Operation No Overloading, No Standing’ launched earlier this week has henceforth prohibited taking passengers in excess of the stipulated number.
Under the new measure no passenger will be allowed to stand in public buses.
However, there are fears that privately owned commercial vehicles will not observe the new regulations and the ministry said it is pinning its hope on the commercial drivers union to enforce them for the good of all.
The ministry said this was necessary given that the deadly virus is transmitted by physical contact, with the number of infected cases caused largely by infected persons fleeing to uninfected parts of the country in their desperate bid to escape isolation.
Transport Minister Leoneard Balogun Koroma described public transport vehicles as vectors of the virus and warned that overloading exposes passengers to the chance of infection.
The Sierra Leone Transport Corporation which operates the government owned public transport recently fumigated all its buses.
Out of 730 confirmed cases of the highly contagious Ebola virus, 315 deaths have been registered as Sierra Leone becomes one of the epicenters of the disease.
The others are Liberia with 599 cases and 323 deaths, Guinea with 506 cases and 373 deaths and Nigeria with a recorded 13 cases and three deaths.
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Ebola false alarm
SCARE: Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, flanked by Prof Janusz Paweska of the Centre of Emerging Zoonotic Diseases and Gauteng MEC for Health Qedani Mahlangu, addresses an emergency briefing
Image by: MOELETSI MABE
South Africa's readiness to deal with Ebola was put to the test this week when a pregnant woman from Guinea arrived at a Johannesburg hospital with a fever.
Even though a high temperature is a symptom of many diseases and can occur during labour, doctors reacted cautiously and isolated her at the Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital.
"This was done as a precaution," Motsoaledi said, because of her country of origin.
But Motsoaledi said the woman should not have been tested as she had no contact with people with the disease.
"Anyone trained in health will know that pregnant women in labour can develop a fever," he said. "Nothing about the case even suggested it was a suspected case of Ebola."
The health department was forced to publicly respond to the case after the DA's Jack Bloom created a scare when he released a statement about a "suspected case" of Ebola in the country.
The country has identified 11 academic hospitals with existing isolation facilities to be used in the event of an Ebola outbreak.
Motsoaledi said Gauteng's Steve Biko and Charlotte Maxeke academic hospitals each had 100 health workers on standby to deal with an Ebola outbreak.
At other hospitals there were 50 health workers on standby.
Ebola has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation but it had not issued a travel ban. The SA Medical Association Trade Union president Phophi Ramathuba called on people to stop spreading rumours about Ebola cases in the country.
She said "rumours were causing panic and confusion".
Ebola kills up to 90% of those infected with it but a higher survival rate is possible if one is treated early. There is no cure.
The countries at the centre of the outbreak, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have declared the disease an emergency. More than 1000 people have died.
Guinea says its outbreak is under control, with the numbers of new cases falling.
But new measures are needed to prevent further infection from the countries. Health services in the worst-affected countries are stretched to breaking point, and the mistrust of health workers among some rural communities means authorities are battling to control the disease.
Yesterday Nigeria also declared the disease a national emergency after an 11th person died from the illness.
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