World Health Organization Ebola Related Travel Restrictions Could Increase Problems

Posted on Aug 29, 2014

During this summer's Ebola virus outbreak that has affected several nations in West Africa, many countries and airlines have implemented travel restrictions to these countries. However, the World Health Organization recently warned countries that suspend flights and create restrictions that they are only increasing the fears of travel shortages, which could hurt the chance for better outbreak awareness response, The Washington Post reported.

A new report from WHO said countries and airlines should refrain from banning travel to West African countries

It's specifically important for businesses sending corporate travelers abroad to these countries to pay close attention to the possibility of any Ebola outbreaks. Many companies have to adhere to a certain duty of care to their workers to make sure their travel destinations are in the best interest of both the worker and the company.

WHO asks for travel bans to stop
However, WHO is asking for travel companies, airlines and national travel agencies to refrain from banning international travel or trade with these countries, the source cited.

"In August, British Airways and Kenya Airways were just two of the international agencies that prevented travel to West African countries, due to the deteriorating public health situation in both countries," Caroline Titmuss, a spokeswoman for British Airways, explained.

Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for WHO, said the bans on corporate, commercial or leisure travel to these nations are significantly affecting these nations' economies, the source cited.

"If you try to shut down air travel and sea travel, you risk affecting to a huge extent the economy, people's livelihoods and their ability to get around without stopping the virus from traveling," said Hartl. "You can't ship goods in. Sometimes these goods are basic staples people need to survive - food and fuel."

Chad closes border with Nigeria
Nigeria is one of the nations experiencing a major portion of the Ebola epidemic, and Chad, one of its neighbors, recently announced it would be closing its border with the Ebola-affected country, Al Jazeera reported. Kalzeubet Payimi Deubet, Prime Minister of Chad, explained the decision was made knowing it could have an economic impact, but its priorities are focused on public health.

On the other side, Daniel Menucci, a representative for the WHO Travel and Transport Task Force, said the border closing could create more issues than it would help resolve, The Post reported.

"Any discontinuation of transport will affect humanitarian aid, doctors, nurses and human resources entering the country, the transfer of biological sampling and equipment for hospitals. All of this needs international transporting, international airlines," said Menucci.

While tension continues to grow in West Africa, businesses need to increase their situational awareness on travel destinations for corporate travelers to keep them as safe as possible. Instituting a security risk monitoring system could keep track of workers while abroad so risks could be avoided wherever an employee needs to go.


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