THE Government has banned the entry of citizens from countries hit by the deadly Ebola virus, Health Minister Joseph Kasonde has announced.
Four West African nations, namely, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria have recorded more than 1,700 cases as bodies were left in the streets, and at least 932 people were killed by Monday this week, including 80 medics.
Dr Kasonde said in a statement issued in Lusaka yesterday that all delegates from any of the countries affected by Ebola must be restricted from entering Zambia until further notice.
Other restricted engagements include international events that would involve delegates from the affected countries as Zambia continues to be on high alert.
“Ensure that all international events that may involve delegates from the affected countries are postponed, cancelled or such delegates excluded. The ministry is advising against holding of all international events that lead to mass gatherings until further notice,” Dr Kasonde said.
“This is because these mass gatherings escalate the spread of the disease and make control difficult. Ensure all delegates from any of the countries affected by Ebola are restricted from entering Zambia until further notice.”
Dr Kasonde said all Zambians travelling from the Ebola-affected areas should be thoroughly screened and quarantined if the risk was eminent upon return until further notice.
Dr Kasonde called for strict entry controls at the country’s airports and all border points and urged health officials to place ambulances at all the four international airports.
“Although there is no immediate threat of spread to Zambia of Ebola, considering the extent of the outbreak, and recognising the case with which people can travel between two points in the world, the Ministry of Health has heightened its alert status,” Dr Kasonde said.
He said Zambians and residents intending to travel to the Ebola-affected countries on duty or business were restricted to undertake such travels.
He said the National Epidemic Preparedness Committee had put Ebola top of its agenda and had reactivated the provincial and district rapid response teams and that a laboratory at the University of Zambia School of Veterinary Medicine had the capacity to test and confirm the disease.
The minister also directed all hospitals in the provinces to hold regular clinical meetings on Ebola to raise more awareness among the care providers.
“Ensure 24-hour surveillance at all busy points of entry in the country with specific and dedicated healthcare providers assigned to man them. This involves screening travellers, especially those from the affected areas.
“The ministry will support this activity through procurement of thermal scanners for detection of febrile illnesses at the points of entry,” Dr Kasonde said.
The World Health Organisation director general Margaret Chan yesterday declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa as an international public health emergency that required an extraordinary response to stop its spread.