North Korea will institute a ban on international tourists in response to the Ebola outbreak beginning Friday, according to China-based travel companies who said Pyongyang informed them about the measure on Thursday. The move by the isolationist state is a particularly severe one, but North Korea is far from the first nation to restrict travel as fear of the virus has swept across the globe.
“We have just been informed by our partners in North Korea that tomorrow North Korea will stop accepting international tourists due to the threat of the Ebola virus, effectively closing its borders,” Beijing-based travel outfit Koryo Tours said on Facebook Thursday, echoing reports by other tourism companies. North Korean officials did not immediately confirm the reports, but ABC News reported that state media made a point of saying Thursday that North Korean leaders are not aware of any Ebola cases there. The nation has closed its borders to tourists in the past, most recently in 2003 as a response to the SARS virus outbreak.
Restricting travel as a response to Ebola has become a popular proposition, as demonstrated by a poll released Wednesday that found that three-quarters of Americans who are aware of the outbreak support an Ebola travel ban. But many officials, including U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, say closing borders and otherwise restricting travel is a counterproductive option.
“It’s extremely important not to isolate these three countries,” Kim told CNN on Wednesday. “One of the things as a medical doctor – and especially for Ebola – one of the greatest tools we have is to elicit what we call a ‘travel history’ – where have you been. And if we isolate these three countries then we’re going to lose the travel history.”
Still, as the Ebola outbreak continues to worsen in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, a growing number of countries are ignoring the advice of Frieden, Kim and other experts, and are restricting travel despite their pleas.
President Barack Obama and health officials within his administration have repeatedly reiterated that the U.S. does not plan a travel ban, but earlier this week the government introduced a plan that will reroute all visitors from the affected countries to only five airports. Other countries have taken more restrictive measures. A number have banned travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Nearby Ghana went so far as to temporarily freeze all public gatherings and international conferences.
Rwanda announced what might be strangest travel restriction by a nation acting in response to the Ebola epidemic earlier this week. "Visitors who have been in the United States or Spain during the last 22 days are now required to report their medical condition — regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms of Ebola," the Ministry of Health announced. A handful of cases have occurred in those two countries, all tied to West Africa.
Below is a breakdown of entry restrictions and travel restrictions compiled by International SOS:
- Antigua and Barbuda on Friday imposed an entry ban on nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The ban will also apply on anyone who travels to the country within 21 days of visiting any of the aforementioned nations.
- Belize announced on Saturday that it will stop issuing visas for nationals of Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria. Sierra Leone nationals, who do not need visas to enter Belize, a fellow Commonwealth state, will also be banned. In addition, travelers who have visited any of the aforementioned countries in the past 30 days will be prohibited from entering the country.
- Colombia imposed an entry ban from Oct. 14 on any traveler who has visited Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal or Sierra Leone in the past four weeks. The restriction would also reportedly apply to Colombian nationals.
- The Dominican Republic has banned entry to travelers who have been in the following countries in the past 30 days: Sierra Leone, Senegal, Liberia, Guinea, and Nigeria, as well as any countries that the World Health Organization has deemed to be affected by the Ebola virus.
- Guyana announced on Oct. 16 that visas will not be issued to nationals from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. Furthermore, health officials will screen travelers who have visited these countries in the six weeks prior to their arrival in Guyana.
- Haiti has banned (PDF) entry to travelers who have been to Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone in the past 28 days. Travelers who have been to these countries more than 28 days before travel to Haiti must present a government-certified health certificate and the results of a blood test for the Ebola virus upon arrival. It is uncertain at this time how these measures will be carried out or enforced. International SOS is monitoring the situation.
- Jamaica imposed an entry ban from Oct. 16 for travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as well as those who have visited these countries within the four weeks prior to their arrival. In addition, any Jamaican national who travels to the aforementioned countries will be quarantined for 28 days on return.
- Panama on Wednesday banned the entry of travelers who have visited Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the past 21 days. The ban will remain in place until the three countries are declared Ebola-free.
- St. Kitts and Nevis have restricted the entry of nationals from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Similar measures will also be applied to travelers who have visited these countries in the 21 days prior to arrival.
- St. Lucia has banned visitors from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The government has also announced that, in addition to a visa, visitors from Nigeria will be required to present a recent medical certificate clearing them of the virus. No further details are available at this stage, though we are investigating further.
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines has banned visitors from Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
- Suriname has banned entry to foreign travelers who have been to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the past 21 days, unless they can present an "internationally recognized health certificate" clearing them of the virus. No further details are available at this time.
- Trinidad and Tobago announced on Oct. 16 that it would deny entry to nationals of Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. In addition, travelers who have visited any of the aforementioned countries in the past six weeks will be quarantined for 21 days upon arrival.
- The United States announced that beginning Wednesday, any passengers beginning their travels in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea will only be able to enter the country through the following airports: JFK International Airport (JFK, New York state), Newark International Airport (EWR, New Jersey), Dulles International Airport (IAD, Virginia), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL, Georgia) or Chicago O'Hare International Airport (ORD, Illinois).
- Kenya on Oct. 10 announced that it had closed the Suam border crossing (Trans-Nzoia county) with Uganda due to reports of an Ebola-related death in Bukwo district (Uganda). Earlier, the Kenyan authorities on Aug. 19 suspended entry of passengers traveling from and through Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, excluding health professionals supporting efforts to contain the outbreak and Kenyan citizens.
- Cape Verde on Oct. 9 announced that it would now deny entry to non-resident foreigners coming from countries with ‘intense Ebola transmission' – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia - or who have been to those countries in the previous 30 days.
- Mauritius on Oct. 8 banned entry to all travelers who have visited Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Senegal and Congo (DRC) in the last two months, rather than just citizens of those countries, as was the case previously. The authorities have announced that entry restrictions for travelers from Senegal and Nigeria will be lifted on Oct. 10 and 17 respectively, if no further cases of Ebola infection are reported.
- Seychelles on Oct. 8 suspended entry to travelers who have visited Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Nigeria or Congo (DRC) 28 days prior to their journey, with the exception of Seychellois citizens.
- Côte d'Ivoire has reopened in early October its borders with Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which were closed in Augusta.
- Equatorial Guinea is denying entry to travelers whose journeys originated in countries affected by Ebola.
- Cameroon on Sept. 17 reopened its borders to travelers from Senegal. An Aug. 18 ban remains in place on travel from Nigeria, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
- Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states – Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – have stated that travelers coming from Ebola-affected countries (according to the World Health Organization) would be monitored for 21 days and that travel to member countries for any gatherings would be discouraged. The SADC provided no details as to how member countries will carry out the associated screening and follow-up and it is likely that countries will have individual processes. There are also reports that some countries require health documentation for entry. Travelers are advised to contact the embassy or health ministry of their destination country to clarify their individual circumstances and prepare their trips accordingly.
- South Sudan has placed a ban on travelers coming from Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia or Congo (DRC), or those who have travelled to those countries in the preceding 21 days. According to the Health Ministry, entry of travelers from Nigeria depends on their travel history in that country and whether they have visited Ebola-affected areas.
- Namibia's Foreign Ministry on Sept. 11 announced that foreigners traveling from countries affected by Ebola would be prohibited from entering the country.
- Gambia on Sept. 1 suspended entry of persons who have visited Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone or Nigeria in the 21 days prior to travel. Those traveling indirectly from any of the aforementioned countries to Gambia via another country also come under this measure.
- Gabon stated on Aug. 22 that it is restricting the issuance of entry visas to travelers from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria on a case-by-case basis.
- Rwanda, according to the U.S. Department of State on Aug. 22, has banned entry to travelers who have visited Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone in the 22 days prior to travel.
- Senegal on Aug. 21 closed its land border with Guinea, while the country's sea and air borders will also be closed to vessels and aircraft from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
- Chad on Aug. 21 closed its land border with Nigeria at Lake Chad. The country previously reportedly banned the entry of any travelers originating or transiting through Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria or Sierra Leone, with airlines serving the country reportedly rerouting flights.
- South Africa on Aug. 21 restricted entry for all non-citizens traveling from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The government subsequently clarified that this was not a blanket ban and could be waived for "absolutely essential travel."
- Gambia has banned the entry of flights from Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
- Nigeria has suspended flights to the country operated by Gambian national carrier Gambia Bird.