Voice of America (Washington, DC)

16 August 2014

Kenya: Govt Announces Border, Flight Restrictions to Prevent Ebola

Kenya has closed its borders to travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the country's health ministry said Saturday, an indication of growing fears about the Ebola outbreak afflicting growing regions of West Africa.

The decision was based on information from the World Health Organization, which earlier said the magnitude of the outbreak had been "vastly underestimated" and could continue for some time.

In a statement, the Kenyan health ministry said the travel ban affected all ports of entry but would not include health care professionals trying to fight the spread of the virus.

Kenya Airways on Saturday suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone, joining other airlines that have announced flight restrictions in West Africa.

On Thursday, Korean Air Lines said it was suspending flights to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, in what it called a measure to stop Ebola from spreading.

No cases have been reported in Kenya, but the WHO has classified the East African country as a high-risk area for the disease because it is a major transport hub.

British Airways and Emirates airlines have also suspended services to parts of West Africa.

The world health body said Friday the number of people who had died from Ebola had risen to 1,145 and the overall number of cases had topped 2,100. The virus has been confirmed in four countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.

Nigerian officials said they had trained 800 health workers and volunteers to help in the fight.

In Liberia, officials announced plans to expand treatment centers in the capital Monrovia. They said an existing center has become overcrowded.

There is no known cure or vaccine for Ebola, though a WHO panel this week backed plans to give some patients unproven drugs to fight the virus.

The head of the international Red Cross organization said Friday that outbreak has stretched the capacities of the group's relief partners "to the maximum." Elhadj As Sy also warned that time was of the essence to stop the spread of the disease.

More than 1,500 Red Cross volunteers are now working in Ebola-affected communities, he said.

"Expertise is a resource. Experience of having worked in an Ebola setting is a resource. Bringing your own knowledge of the environment and the cultural setting is a resource," he said. "And, of course, we badly need the financial resources and the infrastructure and the equipment that will allow us to cope and then continue to support the response."

VOA's Lisa Schlein contributed to this report.

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