The World Health Organization, or WHO, shut down its laboratory in Sierra Leone, after one of its workers contracted Ebola, dealing a blow to the fight against the deadly virus in the country. Canada also announced late Tuesday that it will pull out its three-member mobile laboratory team from the West African nation.
Nearly 400 people were deployed by WHO and its partners to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Nigeria, to help fight off the deadliest outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has so far killed 1,427 people and infected 2,615 people. The organization reportedly added in a statement Monday that 240 health care workers tending to Ebola patients have contracted the disease and 120 have died. Canada's decision to withdraw its team reportedly came after it was found that three people at a hotel housing its workers were diagnosed with the disease.
"It's a temporary measure to take care of the welfare of our remaining workers," Christy Feig, a WHO spokesperson, said, according to Reuters, without giving an exact timeline on how long its decision would stay in force.
"After our assessment, they will return," Feig reportedly said, adding that, for now, patients would be tested at a laboratory in the eastern town of Kenema. WHO's withdrawal could hamper the global response to the disease, though Feig could not ascertain the exact impact.
Jeroen Beijnberger, a medical coordinator for Medicins Sans Frontiere in Congo, said, according to Reuters: “Usually, we would be able to mobilize specialist hemorrhagic fever teams, but we are currently responding to a massive epidemic in West Africa," adding: "This is limiting our capacity to respond to the epidemic in Equateur Province."
Meanwhile, the Canadian team of health workers will be monitored in voluntary isolation, according to the Associated Press, though none of its workers had reportedly come in direct contact with the infected people at their hotel.
The Public Agency of Canada reportedly added that the country will send a different team once it is deemed safe to do so. Two weeks ago, Canada had announced that it will donate its own Ebola vaccine to WHO, for use in Africa.
While most airline carriers have suspended their flights to Ebola-hit regions, British Airways was the latest to join the list as it announced Tuesday that it will suspend flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia until Dec. 31, due to the outbreak.
"Isolating Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea is not in any way contributing to the fight against this disease," Liberia’s information minister Lewis Brown said, according to Reuters, adding: "How do we get in the kinds of supplies that we need? How do we get experts to come to our country? Is that African solidarity?"