The Australian Government has recently announced a ban on visas for visitors from Ebola-hit African Countries. The ban is effective immediately, and the Federal Government has stopped processing all visa applications from people wanting to travel to Australia from Ebola-affected countries. All types of visas are affected, including immigration and humanitarian.
“Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has told Australian Parliament that the Government was focusing its efforts on ensuring the virus did not spread to Australia”.
“The Government has strong controls for the entry of persons to Australia under our immigration program from West Africa,” Mr Morrison said.
“These measures include temporarily suspending our immigration program, including our humanitarian program, from Ebola-affected countries, and this means we are not processing any application from these affected countries,” he said.
Mr Morrison also confirmed all non-permanent or temporary visas would be cancelled.
“We are cancelling and refusing non-permanent or temporary visas from persons from Ebola-infected countries who haven’t departed yet for Australia,” he said.
Visa Ban Criticised by The United Nations
As a response to Visa ban announcement, The United Nations said such measures could discourage health workers who are desperately needed to fight this deadly disease.
“Anything that will dissuade foreign-trained personnel from coming here to West Africa and joining us on the frontline to fight the fight would be very, very unfortunate,” Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER), told news agency Reuters in the Ghanaian capital Accra.
African Leaders have also criticised this unpopular move by Australian Government, saying that visa ban for Ebola-affected countries will create more panic than help fighting the spread of disease. Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf urged Australia to reconsider its travel ban.
Among the varied responses to the Ebola outbreak globally, Australia’s visa ban represents the policies of a very small but perhaps growing minority of countries.
What is Ebola and How does it Spread?
First discovered in 1976, the virus has periodically spread through parts of Africa, killing thousands in the process.
There is currently no vaccine, and due to its fast onset and horrific symptoms it has become one of the world’s most feared diseases.
There are five strains of Ebola: Zaire, Sudan, Tai Forest, Bundibugyo and Reston. The Zaire strain, which is involved in the latest outbreak, is the most lethal with a fatality rate of up to 90 per cent.
Humans can catch the virus from animals through close contact with infected animals’ blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids.
The virus is thought to reside within the region’s fruit bat population, with the bats carriers of Ebola, but unaffected by it.
The bushmeat trade (the catching and eating of wild animals, including primates such as gorillas and chimpanzees), is thought to play a role in outbreaks of the disease. While cooking infected meat kills the virus, handling of the meat beforehand can cause infection.
Once in the human population, the virus continues spreading through direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids.
The World Health Organisation has specifically noted traditional healing and burial practices in rural regions as a factor in the spread of the disease.
The US Centres for Disease Control says people can only catch Ebola by: coming into direct contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick or has died from Ebola; touching contaminated objects; or touching or eating infected animals.
It notes Ebola does not spread through the air or through water.
Since the outbreak in March this year approx. 5000 people have died from the disease, of which more than half in past two months alone. The number of infections officially reported up to date has passed 10 000, and WHO predicts more than 20 thousand people can be infected before the end of this year.
(ABC News website used as a main source of information)