Sierra Leone, Liberia and the United Nations have condemned Australia's decision to suspend entry visas for those travelling from Ebola-infected countries, and called the move "counterproductive" and “discriminatory.” Australia's travel ban, issued Monday, closely followed the U.S.'s decision to isolate its military personnel returning from Ebola-hit countries.
Australia’s decision has also reportedly been criticized by Amnesty International while U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned that travel restrictions would severely hamper efforts to curb the virus' spread. The World Health Organization, or WHO, has also warned that travel bans and restrictive quarantine measures could discourage health workers to travel to Africa to help tackle the disease. And, authorities are concerned that deploying health workers in affected regions is becoming a challenge amid travel bans and isolation measures implemented by various governments.
World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim has estimated that the three worst-hit countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea need 5,000 overseas health workers to tackle the virus.
"Right now, I'm very much worried about where we will find those healthcare workers," Kim said, according to BBC, adding: "With the fear factor going out of control in so many places, I hope healthcare professionals will understand that when they took their oath to become a healthcare worker it was precisely for moments like this."
Anthony Banbury, head of the U.N. Ebola Emergency Response Mission, said according to Reuters: "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."
Sierra Leone’s Information Minister Alpha Kanu, called Australia’s move discriminatory and said: "It is not (going) after Ebola but rather it is ... against the 24 million citizens of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea," adding: "Certainly, it is not the right way to go," according to Reuters.
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that the move by some U.S. states of quarantining people arriving in the country could be an overreaction. She also urged Australia to rethink its travel ban.
“Anytime there's stigmatization, there's quarantine, there's exclusion of people, many of whom are just normal, then those of us who are fighting this epidemic, when we face that, we get very sad," Sirleaf said, according to Reuters.
The current Ebola outbreak, which is the worst on record, has so far killed nearly 5,000 people and has infected more than 10,000 people, mostly in West Africa