OTTAWA, Canada, Monday November 3, 2014 – Canada is the latest country to suspend the processing of visa applications from foreign nationals who have visited West African nations with large outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus.
According to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander: “Our number one priority is to protect Canadians. We continue to work with domestic and international partners to aid efforts to respond to the outbreak in West Africa, while strengthening our domestic preparedness here at home.”
In a press release issued Friday, officials said that applications will be returned to people from Ebola hot spots who have already applied for visas.
Canadians currently in West Africa will not be affected by the changes, the press release added. Health care workers in the affected West African countries will be allowed to return to Canada.
Earlier last week, Australia’s decision to suspend entry visas for people from Ebola-affected countries drew heavy flak, with Uganda accusing Western countries of “creating mass panic.”
Several tourism dependant Caribbean countries, with limited resources to deal with a possible Ebola outbreak, have also temporarily banned entry from West African Ebola hot spots.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) statement issued Friday and current up to October 29, a total of 4,951 people have died from Ebola and there have been 13,567 cases in eight countries since the outbreak began.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone remain the worst affected countries, with 13,540 cases and 4,941 deaths attributed to the virus. A total of 523 healthcare workers are known to be infected and 269 have died.
The number of probable and suspected cases are from six affected countries – Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Spain and the United States – and the two previously affected countries of Senegal and Nigeria, WHO said.
WHO also noted that there is a separate and unrelated Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo where there have been 66 cases and 49 deaths as of October 28.
Meanwhile, Dr David Nabarro, UN system coordinator on Ebola, said it is not necessary to quarantine people merely because they come from Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone.
“People do not need to be quarantined unless they have come into contact with people who have Ebola or unless they have symptoms,” Dr Nabarro said on Friday.
The UN expert expressed cautious optimism about the apparent slowing of the rate of infection in Liberia, but cautioned that authorities “do not always have timely production of full data,” and warned that “reduction in the rate of increase does not mean that the outbreak is under control.”
In other developments, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has praised Cuba for sending large numbers of health care workers to fight Ebola in West Africa.
“I have to commend Cuba for sending 265 medical professionals … and they are sending another 200 on top of that 265,” the ambassador said at a press conference on Friday.
Power noted that only a few countries have truly committed to fighting Ebola.
“A few countries have done a lot, and a much larger number of countries have done very little,” the ambassador said.