Reuters […] Australia on Monday issued a blanket ban on visas from Ebola-affected countries in West Africa to prevent the disease reaching the country, becoming the first rich nation to shut its doors to the region.
Australia has not recorded a case of Ebola despite a number of scares, and conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott has so far resisted repeated requests to send medical personnel to help battle the outbreak on the ground.
The decision to refuse entry for anyone from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, while touted by the government as a necessary safety precaution, was criticized by experts and advocates as politically motivated and shortsighted.
Adam Kamradt-Scott, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity, said the ban would do nothing to protect the country from Ebola while potentially having a negative public health impact by unduly raising fears and creating a general climate of panic.
Medical professionals say Ebola is difficult to catch and is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person and not transmitted by asymptomatic people. Ebola is not airborne.
There has been a growing chorus of critics, including public health experts, the United Nations, medical charities and even the White House, denouncing mandatory quarantines as scientifically unjustified and an obstacle to fighting the disease at its source in West Africa.
“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 U.N. Ebola Emergency Response Mission (UNMEER), told Reuters in the Ghanian capital Accra. (read more)