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Eliminate Ebola risk


Eliminate Ebola risk

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In a previous letter to the Editor, I questioned the Government’s reasons for not restricting travel to Barbados by nationals of the countries in Africa impacted by the Ebola epidemic.

Subsequently, as reported by this paper on October 23, Richard Sealy explained Government’s rationale and I am very concerned that the Government is unable to recognise a serious deficiency in their reasoning.

What is really scary is that in light of the prudent actions by other Caribbean countries in restricting travel from certain African countries, this Government has determined that its decision is the sensible decision – the implication being that those countries and people who maintain a different opinion are extremist and, dare I say, less than sensible.

Sealy is reported to have said that “if you go and identify three countries in West Africa where there are Ebola cases and ban travel from there, what happens when you have a couple of cases in the United Kingdom?”

Sealy seems to fail to recognise that first, we have to deal with what the current reality is and that reality is that the three West African countries are where the current outbreak has originated and it is from there that the virus has spread to other countries.

Highest risk

With that in mind, therefore, it seems reasonable that to avoid the risk of transmission, the first step would be to eliminate the risk of people who have the highest risk of being infected from travelling to Barbados.

At the time of writing, Mali has just reported its first Ebola case, presumably transferred from someone who may have travelled to or been a resident in one of the impacted West African nations, and all of the cases in the United States can be traced back to either people who visited or were nationals of one of the three West African countries.

It therefore seems reasonable that at this early stage of the epidemic the priority would
be to restrict the potential cross-border infection by restricting travel by those people who are most likely to have the Ebola virus.

Sealy then proceeds to ask whether we are going to shut down the United Kingdom source market and ban travel from there too. In my opinion, this is an unfortunate question as a few cases in the United States or the United Kingdom cannot be compared with an epidemic in West Africa that is killing hundreds of people weekly.

Furthermore, to date, the United States has been doing a good job in identifying those people who may have been potentially exposed to the Ebola virus and, consequently, there is a degree of comfort that the few cases identified in the United States and the United Kingdom do not pose a significant risk to warrant similar action.
It is terribly unfortunate that the minister would even compare the two scenarios as the minister should know that these two situations merit differential treatment.

Although the minister did not question what would happen if there was a widespread outbreak in the United States or the United Kingdom, I would dare to project that if that
happened, thanks to the Government’s current position on allowing everyone to enter the country, there would already have been a widespread outbreak in Barbados.

Then the Government would not have to worry about closing any borders because people would not want to come to Barbados anyhow.