Saturday, August 2, 2014 8:01 AM
There was confusion on Friday over reports that Ghana had officially banned flights from four West African countries, including Nigeria, citing concerns about the rapid spread of the Ebola virus, which has claimed over 600 lives.
A report carried by an online medium, Saharareporters quoted Charles Asare, Managing Director of the Ghana Airport Company, as saying the measure was part of a set of emergency management plans officials were rolling out to combat the spread of the virus.
But Nigeria’s aviation authorities, when contacted last night by Saturday Tribune denied knowledge of such an action from Ghana. They emphatically said it was not true.
The affected countries according to the report, are Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.
The Ghanaian government, the report said, had also implemented strict restrictions on the movement and management of Liberian refugees in camps in the country.
Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Mensah, was quoted as urging Ghanaians to bear with the government as they work to contain the virus.
“Preparedness is not an event but a process,” he said.
‘Ebola outbreak getting out of control’
Meanwhile, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan met with Presidents of Guinea, Liberia and Siera Leone on Friday over the Ebola outbreak.
At the meeting held in Conakry, Guinea, Chan described the outbreak as “unprecendented and accompanied by unprecendented challenges.”
He told the presidents that the outbreak was getting out of control.
“West Africa is facing its first outbreak of Ebola virus disease. This is an unprecedented outbreak accompanied by unprecedented challenges. And these challenges are extraordinary.
West Africa’s outbreak is caused by the most lethal strain in the family of Ebola viruses.
“The outbreak is by far the largest ever in the nearly four-decade history of this disease. It is the largest in terms of numbers of cases and deaths, with 1,323 cases and 729 deaths reported to date in four countries.
It is the largest in terms of geographical areas already affected and others at immediate risk of further spread.
It is taking place in areas with fluid population movements over porous borders, and it has demonstrated its ability to spread via air travel, contrary to what has been seen in past outbreaks. Cases are occurring in rural areas which are difficult to access, but also in densely populated capital cities.
“This meeting must mark a turning point in the outbreak response. The presence here of four heads of state is clear evidence of the high-level of political concern and commitment.
Let me give you some frank assessments of what we face. And by “we”, I mean your countries and your neighbours, WHO and its partners in outbreak response, including civil society organizations, and the international community, including countries on other continents that can give you the support you so clearly need.
First, this outbreak is moving faster than our efforts to control it. If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socioeconomic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries.
“In addition, the outbreak is affecting a large number of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers, one of the most essential resources for containing an outbreak. To date, more than 60 health care workers have lost their lives in helping others. Some international staff are infected. These tragic infections and deaths significantly erode response capacity.
Second, the situation in West Africa is of international concern and must receive urgent priority for decisive action at national and international levels. Experiences in Africa over nearly four decades tell us clearly that, when well managed, an Ebola outbreak can be stopped.
“This is not an airborne virus. Transmission requires close contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, also after death. Apart from this specific situation, the general public is not at high risk of infection by the Ebola virus.
“At the same time, it would be extremely unwise for national authorities and the international community to allow an Ebola virus to circulate widely and over a long period of time in human populations.
“Third, this is not just a medical or public health problem. It is a social problem. Deep-seated beliefs and cultural practices are a significant cause of further spread and a significant barrier to rapid and effective containment. This social dimension must also be addressed as an integral part of the overall response,” he said.
“Fourth, in some areas, chains of transmission have moved underground. They are invisible. They are not being reported. Because of the high fatality rate, many people in affected areas associate isolation wards with a sure death sentence, and prefer to care for loved ones in homes or seek assistance from traditional healers.
Such hiding of cases defeats strategies for rapid containment. Moreover, public attitudes can create a security threat to response teams when fear and misunderstanding turn to anger, hostility, or violence,” the WHO chief declared.
Ebola: Fashola wants Nigeria’s borders closed
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State has urged the Federal Government to shut down its borders with affected West African countries to prevent outbreak of Ebola virus in the country.
Fashola on Friday at Lagos House, Ikeja, said Ebola was no longer a local problem, but an international one that required urgent measures in place to prevent its spread.
He said, “This is because it is easily transmittable across the borders and boundaries.
“The Federal Government team has been working with the state’s team. But I think what the Federal Government should do is to consider closing down some of our borders.”