Seafarers Arriving from West Africa Denied Medical Care

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United Nations and other leading international transport, trade and tourism organizations expressed concern about the reported denial of medical care for ill seafarers on board ships that had previously called at ports in Ebola-affected countries.

In a statement, the Travel and Transport Task Force called for international cooperation of governments and the transport sector in following the recommendations of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee on Ebola, convened by the UN World Health Organization (WHO).

In its statement, the Travel and Transport Force – set up in August 2014 to support global efforts to contain the spread of Ebola – said it also stood firmly with WHO against general bans on travel and trade, as well as restrictions that include general quarantine of travellers from Ebola-affected countries.

The International Maritime Organization also supported the recommendations calling for continuation of “business as usual”. However, several countries from Europe, the US, Latin America and Asia have introduced health screening measures at their ports as a “precaution measure“. Denying entrance to vessels coming from Ebola-affected countries to their respective territorial waters in countries like Turkey, Malta or Belize has also been introduced.

“Such measures can create a false impression of control and may have a detrimental impact on the number of health care workers volunteering to assist Ebola control or prevention efforts in the affected countries,” the statement said, adding that they “may also adversely reduce essential trade, including supplies of food, fuel and medical equipment to the affected countries, contributing to their humanitarian and economic hardship.”

“The best protective measures for non-affected countries,” the Task Force statement said, “are adequate levels of preparedness, including heightened surveillance to detect and diagnose cases early and well prepared staff and operational planning to ensure that suspect cases of Ebola are managed safely and in ways to minimize further spread.”

The Task Force members include WHO, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Airports Council International (ACI), International Air Transport Association (IATA), World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

The Task Force added it was working on recommendations to including guidance on exit screening for affected countries, a set of considerations and steps for planning screening at points of entry for countries that wish to introduce this as part of their preparedness plan, as well as the best way to inform the aviation and maritime sectors on procedures for caring safely for travellers who are suspected to be infected with Ebola on board an aircraft or ship, or at arrival points.–World Maritime News

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