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African nations tighten Ebola travel bans

Chad and South Africa beef up restrictions on infected countries despite warnings of possible food shortages.

Last updated: 22 Aug 2014 01:12
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South Africa bans all travellers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from entering its territory [EPA]

African countries have tightened travel curbs in an effort to contain the Ebola outbreak, ignoring World Health Organisation (WHO) warnings that such measures could heighten shortages of food and basic supplies in affected areas.

In the West Point slum in Liberia's capital Monrovia, the scene of violent clashes with the army on Wednesday after the area was quarantined to curb the spread of Ebola, hundreds of people jostled their way towards trucks loaded with water and rice.

This decision will have an economic impact on the region but it is imperative for public health needs.

Kalzeubet Payimi Deubet, prime minister of Chad

Police used canes to beat back some locals while aid workers helped others dip their fingers in ink to record their ration. 

The UN's World Food Programme says deliveries of basic supplies to more than 1 million people across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are intended to avoid a food crisis in those West African countries, where more than 1,300 people have died from Ebola in the worst outbreak of the disease in history.

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN health agency, has repeatedly said that it does not recommend travel or trade restrictions for Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria - the countries affected by the epidemic that began in March.

Those countries are starting to suffer shortages of fuel, food and basic supplies due to these measures, it warned this week.

Still, Kalzeubet Payimi Deubet, Chad's prime minister, said on Thursday his country would close its border with Nigeria to prevent Ebola entering the country.

"This decision will have an economic impact on the region but it is imperative for public health needs," Deubet said.

Nigeria has reported 15 cases - the lowest number in the four affected countries - and the WHO has expressed "cautious optimism" that the spread can be stopped.

South Africa said on Thursday it was banning all travellers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from entering its territory, barring its own citizens.

WHO, the United Nations' health agency, has repeatedly said that it does not recommend travel or trade restrictions for Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria - the countries affected by the epidemic that began in March.

Those countries are starting to suffer shortages of fuel, food and basic supplies due to these measures, it warned this week.

Cured Americans

In the United States, an American doctor infected with Ebola left his isolation unit and hugged his doctors and nurses on Thursday, demonstrating that he posed no public health threat one month after getting sick with the virus.

Dr Kent Brantly and his fellow medical missionary, Nancy Writebol, who was quietly discharged two days earlier, are still weak but should recover completely, said Dr Bruce Ribner, who runs the infectious disease unit at Emory University Hospital.

Working connections, they obtained one of only five courses available worldwide of an experimental drug known as Zmapp, and Brantly and Writebol split the doses before being evacuated from Liberia, where they contracted the virus, to the US.

The other four were later given to a Spanish priest, who died, and three doctors in Africa, who have been improving.

Last week, the World Health Organization backed the use of untested drugs and vaccines, but the scarcity of supplies has raised questions about who gets the treatments. 

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Source:
Reuters And AP
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