Ebola-related travel restrictions spread across globe

24 Oct 14

GLOBAL, UNITED STATES

The deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa has prompted countries across the globe to respond with measures ranging from stepped-up health screening at airports to all-out travel bans. Most countries are leaving Ebola-related restrictions in place, at least for now, even after two African countries with reported cases were recently declared Ebola free.

The World Health Organization recently reported that Ebola outbreaks had ended in Nigeria and Senegal. But Ebola continues to “increase exponentially” in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, according to the WHO. Isolated Ebola cases have been reported outside of West Africa, including that of a New York City doctor reportedly infected after returning from treating patients in Guinea. All told, the WHO reports that there have been 9,936 Ebola cases and 4,877 deaths since the outbreak began.

A number of African countries responded to the outbreak by barring entry to travelers from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and, on occasion, other countries they feared may be hit with the virus. Clusters of countries in the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean have also instituted travel bans.

European countries have mostly avoided travel bans, but flights to and from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have been limited. A number of European countries have also imposed increased health screening at airports. The screening often involves checking travelers’ temperatures and isolating those who are demonstrating Ebola-like symptoms.

In the U.S., the Obama administration has resisted mounting calls for a travel ban, but announced this week that all travelers flying from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone would be routed through five airports equipped with enhanced Ebola screening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention next week will begin requiring travelers from the three countries to report their temperatures and any other symptoms on a daily basis for a three-week period after coming or returning to the U.S.

In light of a handful of reported Ebola cases in the U.S., earlier this week, Rwanda announced that it would perform special screening of travelers from the U.S. and Spain (another country with isolated cases). However, the policy was withdrawn almost immediately. Rwanda’s minister of health, Agnes Binagwaho, said on Twitter Wednesday that Rwanda was “removing special screening” for travelers from the U.S. and Spain and said the decision was “solely mine and not endorsed by the Government of Rwanda.”

The Ebola outbreak has prompted varying immigration and travel-related responses that can – and have – changed at a moment’s notice. Travelers headed to or from West African countries – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in particular – should familiarize themselves with applicable rules and restrictions and plan accordingly. Delays should be expected.

North America & Caribbean

  • Canada – Canada has advised citizens against nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and is enforcing a domestic Quarantine Act by screening passengers at all international points of entry. Visa applicants are asked whether they have any disorders that “would require social and/or health services, other than medication” while in Canada.
  • United States – The Obama administration has resisted calls to impose a travel ban on people coming from Ebola-affected countries. However, travelers flying from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone are all being routed through five airports with stepped-up health screening processes in place. Those travelers will also be given a medical kit upon arrival and will be asked to take their temperatures every day and check in with state or local officials for 21 days. The Centers for Disease Control has warned against traveling to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Obama appointed an Ebola ‘czar’ to oversee Ebola response Oct. 17.
  • The Caribbean – Belize has issued a visa and travel ban on anyone who has been to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria or Sierra Leone within 30 days of coming to Belize. Beginning the week of Oct. 13, a number of Caribbean countries adopted measures to refuse entry to visitors arriving from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Those countries include Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica, Panama, St. Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago, according to wire reports and the International Air Transport Association (IATA). St. Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also began requiring Nigeria nationals arriving from Nigeria to have a recent PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test certificate showing they are free of Ebola, according to the IATA.

South America

  • Brazil – Brazil announced Oct. 6 that ships that had docked in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal or Sierra Leone in the last 21 days would receive clearance to dock in Brazil only following an analysis of crew members’ medical records, according to Reuters.
  • Colombia – On Oct. 14, Colombia began turning away travelers who had visited Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria or Sierra Leone within four weeks of attempted entry, becoming the first Latin American country to institute a travel ban. On Aug. 22, Colombia began requiring all visa applicants to fill out and sign questionnaires concerning travel to Ebola-affected countries.

Europe

  • France – France has advised against nonessential travel to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Flights to Sierra Leone were suspended, but daily flights from Guinea have continued. Temperature checks for passengers arriving from Guinea were instituted Oct. 18.
  • Germany – Germany has not instituted a travel ban and has no formal program for screening arriving travelers. Germany does not have any direct flights from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.
  • Ireland – Ireland has not issued a travel ban or other restrictions. There are no direct flights between Ireland and any of the Ebola-affected countries.
  • Italy – The Ministry of Health has recently issued a circular letter requesting the border police to improve the entrance checks for those arriving from countries considered “at risk.”
  • Spain – Medical personnel have been stationed in airport arrival gates checking for Ebola symptoms for travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Hospitals are prepared to receive people showing symptoms and isolate them if necessary.
  • Turkey – Turkey is conducting airport health checks for travelers coming from Africa, but is not planning to limit flights to or from Africa. The country has quarantined some travelers with high fevers or other symptoms, including at least six travelers who had malaria, but not Ebola. Travelers from Liberia and Nigeria are undergoing more intensive screening.
  • United Kingdom – The United Kingdom has not issued a travel ban, but there have been no direct flights from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone to London’s Heathrow Airport due to the outbreak, according to the Associated Press. Passengers may be subject to screening at Heathrow and other airports.

Middle East

  • Israel – On Oct. 19, Israel began screening all passengers arriving from 15 African countries. Previously only passengers from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone were screened.
  • Qatar – In early September, Qatar suspended visit visas and new work visas for travelers from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. There have been reports of passengers with visas being denied entry without explanation. Travelers are subject to thermal detection cameras at the airport. Qatar has banned all food products from the four countries.
  • Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia has temporarily suspended work permits to nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Saudi Arabian consulates also temporarily suspended visitor, work and pilgrimage visas to nationals of the three countries. The bans affected more than 7,000 travelers around the annual Hajj pilgrimage, according to the Associated Press.
  • United Arab Emirates – Emirates Airline, based in Dubai, halted flights to Guinea in August.

Africa

  • Democratic Republic of Congo – The Democratic Republic of Congo has seen at least 66 cases of Ebola, but they appear unrelated to the West Africa outbreak. Officials say the Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a different strain of the virus, and the area of the outbreak has been quarantined. There are no additional rules or restrictions for people traveling within the country.
  • Egypt – Neither the Immigration Authority nor the Ministry of Health have adopted measures regarding Ebola.
  • Ivory Coast – Ivory Coast has lifted previously imposed admission and transit restrictions against visitors from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. All travelers may still be subject to screening or health checks.
  • Kenya – According to IATA and Reuters, Kenya is refusing entry to people either arriving from or who have traveled through Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone even if they hold a visa, while Kenyan nationals and alien residents who have traveled to the affected countries are permitted entry but could be subject to screening and medical examinations with possible quarantines for people who are sick.
  • Nigeria – Nigeria has instituted temperature screening at major airports for passengers arriving from Ebola-affected countries. Blood tests are administered to passengers with high temperatures.
  • Rwanda – Visitors who have been to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within the last 21 days are barred from entering Rwanda. All travelers are subject to screening.
  • Senegal – On Sept. 3, Senegal began denying admission and transit to nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, unless they can prove they had not been in any of those countries for a 40-day period before coming to Senegal.
  • South Africa – All travelers and crew members arriving at South Africa points of entry must complete a Travel Health questionnaire. Passengers who traveled from or through Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within one month of arrival in South Africa must undergo additional screening. Those showing symptoms will be escorted to a clinic for further examination or evacuation. Those without symptoms will have to report to the Department of Health for 21 days.

Asia

  • China – China’s Airport Security Bureau is conducting quick medical checks for passengers arriving from affected countries.
  • India – Airports have installed thermal scanners to record the temperature of travelers. In addition, according to the Times of India, India has set rules for Indian and foreign airlines flying into the country requiring that they set aside a separate toilet on the plane for the exclusive use of passengers exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms.
  • Russia – Russia has no plans for any travel bans. Passengers arriving from Ebola-affected countries are subject to medical screening.
  • Singapore – On Oct. 15, Singapore stepped up screening measures at points of entry. Travelers from Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone must undergo thermal screening and fill out a Health Declaration Card including their contact details for follow-up. The card is also implemented at land and sea checkpoints. Singapore nationals have been asked to postpone non-essential travel to affected countries.
  • South Korea – Travelers who live in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone or have visited those countries in the previous three weeks before arrival will undergo heat detector screening and answer questions by a doctor with follow-up checks for a period of three weeks after entry.
  • Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka has suspended Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) for nationals of Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Republic of Congo, Sudan and Uganda. Nationals of those countries must apply for visas before departure and submit a medical report to the Sri Lankan consulate that will be forwarded to the Sri Lankan Medical Board. The visa process will therefore take several weeks. Affected nationals may also be subject to further medical exam upon arrival.

Australia & New Zealand

  • Australia – Australia has not issued any travel bans or announced any additional screening measures, but has asked visa applicants from Ebola-affected areas who are feeling sick to delay travel.
  • New Zealand – Travelers who have visited Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within three weeks before arriving will be screened for symptoms of Ebola and, where necessary, have a health assessment.

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