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EDITORIAL: Time for unity on Ebola


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EDITORIAL: Time for unity on Ebola

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When Parliamnet resumes next Tuesday, it should discuss as a matter of urgent public importance the threat of Ebola, which is no longer only a concern for a few areas in some countries in Africa.

The spread of this disease to other countries, along with the likelihood of its continued spread elsewhere, is frightening. The situation calls for a bipartisan, apolitical and commonsensical approach here in Barbados.

The country is already under attack from chikungunya, and our initial response in this regard has been poor. we therefore need to be much better prepared and instil confidence in relation to preventing Ebola from reaching our shores.

This is not the time for ignorance and jaundiced views to take the lead.

It must not be a situation of having only the politicians united in the effort to fight these diseases, but rather a national effort which draws no line in benefiting from all the expert health care views.

The Ebola epidemic has the potential to create panic, evoke stupid comments and alter lifestyles as did the great plagues of yesteryear.

We hope the Ebola outbreak will be so contained that it will not spread to any mega-city and that it does not mutate since this would make a bad situation worse.

Despite the uncertainties and fears, there must be care in instituting any travel bans against people originating in the worst affected countries; the focus should instead be on containing and eradicating the problem.

We need only reflect on the spread and impact of both SARS between 2002 and 2003 and the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009 to appreciate not only what we are up against but how the situation can be controlled without running people underground.

What we must do is ensure our front-line health workers have all the proper protective equipment and necessary supplies as well as an assurance of high quality care should they fall ill.

There must also be constant communication about Ebola from all quarters and not the deafening silence with which some officials have become comfortable. The Immigration Department and the operators of the ports of entry must outline their efforts.

What we must not do is become prejudiced and stigmatise people from West Africa. Rather, we must contribute to controlling the disease in the affected countries. This is a certain way of helping to prevent it from coming here.

We must treat Ebola and indeed chikungunya as enemies threatening an invasion of the entire nation. The only response we can have in such circumstances is to be prepared and united for the battle. There is no room for hysteria in these circumstances.

Barbadians want to be reassured their leaders are taking all the appropriate measures to protect them.

This is not a situation in which to score any points – political or otherwise.

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