General News of 2014-08-14

Don’t go to Ebola-affected countries – Foreign Ministry warns

The Government of Ghana on Thursday warned its citizens not to travel to any of Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in order to avoid contracting the killer Ebola disease.

In addition, Ghana has suspended all international meetings it was scheduled to host for the next three months as a measure to mute the danger of visiting participants who may harbour the Ebola virus from transmitting same.

In a travel advisory issued at a press conference in Accra Thursday, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hannah Tetteh, emphasised the need for Ghanaian citizens to avoid travelling to the countries where Ebola has killed over a thousand people.

Ms Tetteh said: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Government of Ghana is advising all Ghanaian citizens not to travel to the Ebola affected countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia unless it is absolutely necessary. Even then we would encourage you not to travel especially given the accelerated presence of the Ebola disease… The reason why we are doing this is because ultimately it is movements between our various states and coming into contact with people who have been affected by the virus which creates greater opportunities for transmission of the virus.”

The Foreign Minister bluntly warned that the government may not be in a position to immediately come to the aid of Ghanaians who ignore its advice and end up encountering some challenges in those countries.

“Please note that now that we have given this travel advisory, in the event that you do travel to those countries, and you are caught up in some difficulty, please know that if the government of Ghana is not immediately in a position to respond, we have given you fair warning that this is something we believe you should desist from doing,” she said.

Nigeria, the other neighbouring country known to have recorded a few Ebola deaths, escaped a similar travel ban from Ghana because, according to the minister, Nigeria appears to have successfully contained the menace. That reprieve, however, is subject to periodic reviews.

Ms Tetteh also explained that the suspension of all international meetings is necessary to ensure that the conferences do not facilitate the spread of Ebola in Ghana.

“Invariably, most of the international meetings that take place involve regional meetings that have the potential of bringing in visitors from other parts of the sub-region,” she explained.

Ebola continues to spread in West Africa, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) reporting 1,013 deaths in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone as of Saturday.

According to WHO, the disease is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people, and severely ill patients require intensive supportive care.

The Ministry of Health has already outlined measures it plans to take to prevent an outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Ghana, including screening people that arrive in the country, especially from countries that have recorded cases.

The move is intended to ensure that people infected with Ebola are not allowed into the country.

Ebola treatment centres are being set up in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale to cater for the infected, in the event that the disease somehow finds its way into the country.

Public education on the Ebola disease has also been intensified while frontline staff at various health facilities nationwide, as well as officials at the country's border posts, are being sensitised to identifying suspected Ebola cases and isolating victims.

The Sector Minister, Dr Kwaku Agyemang-Mensah, has also assured Ghanaians that the Ministry is prepared to confront and contain the disease if it showed up in the country, adding that the Ebola situation in West Africa had “strengthened our preparedness and response to possible EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) in Ghana."

He also pledged the government’s commitment “not renege on our efforts to protect the people of Ghana especially our health workers who are at the forefront of this battle against Ebola Virus Disease."

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