Mon | Jan 16, 2017

no big loss ... Bunting says ban on Ebola travellers won't hurt Ja

Published:Wednesday | October 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
This photo provided by the US Centers for Disease Control shows an Ebola virus.

The ban imposed by Jamaica on persons travelling from three Ebola-affected West African countries is not considered "a big economic loss", National Security Minister Peter Bunting said.

A total of 142 persons had travelled from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea to Jamaica between January 1 and last week Wednesday, when the ban

was announced. A breakdown of the statistics revealed that 66 Sierra Leoneans, 65 Liberians, and 11 Guineans travelled to Jamaica this year.

Information obtained from the national security minister indicated that 160 persons from the three countries visited in 2013; 138 in 2012; and 159 in 2011.

In a statement to the House of Representatives, Bunting said the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has been advised of the ban, which means that no reservation can be made directly or indirectly from Sierra Leone, Liberia, or Guinea to Jamaica as a destination.

"PICA (the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency) advised IATA last week of this travel ban and got confirmation this morning from IATA that it is now in effect. This means that no bookings will be taken that are inconsistent with this ban on their reservation system, and it will avoid the inconvenience to the traveller of having to refuse to land them when they get to our borders," Bunting said in Parliament.

IATA is the trade association for the world's airlines, representing 240 airlines, or 84 per cent of total air traffic.

'SIGNIFICANT RISK'

Bunting told The Gleaner yesterday that despite the average of 150 visitors out of more than two million that have visited Jamaica in each of the last three years, travellers from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea represent a "significant risk as only one needs to be infected".

More than 4,000 persons, mainly from the three named countries, have died as a result of Ebola since March.

More than 8,000 persons have been infected with the deadly virus, for which a cure has not been identified.

Jamaica has established its National Emergency Operation Centre, which is based at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Manage-ment and which is supported by the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) and the relevant partner agencies, which is to be utilised to coordinate the country's Ebola preparedness, and, if necessary, response.

"Our preparation to fight Ebola is in keeping with the best-known practices as stipulated by the WHO (World Health Organization) and adopted by countries that are now Ebola-free," Bunting said.

Bunting said that the JDF Coast Guard and the Marine Police would be increasing their monitoring of the country's maritime space.

He said the army would participate in the establishment of quick-response teams to be based at Up Park Camp and support the public-education and partner-engagement activities of the Ministry of Health.