Ministry of Health defends decision to impose travel ban
September 26, 2014
Ministry of Health defends decision to impose travel ban

The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment is defending its decision to impose a travel ban on persons who are from or have travelled through Ebola affected West African countries.

Just over three weeks ago, a press release from the Ministry stated that a travel ban{{more}} had been enforced on persons travelling from or through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to SVG; and that those travelling from (or through) Nigeria and other West African countries would have to present a medical certificate and negative blood test (for the Ebola virus) in order to be allowed entry.

This decision is still in effect, despite recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) for countries to not impose bans on international travel or trade with the afflicted West African countries.

Chief medical officer Dr Simone Keizer-Beache acknowledged the recommendations of both the WHO and the International Health Regulations (IHR), but insisted that this was the best preventative measure that the state could take against the disease reaching our shores.

“If you prevent the person from ever coming in, you minimise your risk of having then to deal with an extremely contagious and lethal disease,” said Dr Keizer-Beache.

She further pointed out that the WHO/IHR recommendation against travel bans was more so to avoid impeding medical assistance efforts and supplies from getting into the affected countries.

The letter from WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan, dated August 29, 2014, states: “Lives are being unnecessarily lost because health care workers cannot travel to the affected countries, and delivery of life saving equipment and supplies is being delayed.”

Dr Keizer-Beache further explained that the banning of persons arriving into countries from the afflicted West African countries is “less of an issue.”

The same WHO letter also outlines that “any measure implemented by a national authority needs to be well informed by the nature of the disease itself and well grounded in the applicable international instruments and obligation of States”.

The chief medical officer further pointed out that in West Africa, the majority of persons who have contracted the disease are those on the front line of the fight against it – health care workers.

“We need to protect our health care workers. This is why the Ministry of Health has taken this decision, and made this recommendation to the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”(JSV)