Via The Globe and Mail, a report by Geoffrey York: Isolation, cancelled flights hamper Ebola efforts in Africa. Excerpt:
Plans for a massive “surge” of medical aid to fight the Ebola crisis have been jeopardized by airlines cancelling flights into the region, the United Nations has warned.
West African countries at the heart of the Ebola outbreak are increasingly sealed off from the world, their borders closed, their airports empty and their airline routes suspended. This isolation is now endangering the relief effort, UN experts say.
The flight cancellations, which are continuing to escalate, are having a “huge impact” on efforts to bring in health workers and supplies to combat the Ebola outbreak, according to David McLachlan-Karr, the UN resident co-ordinator in Sierra Leone, one of the worst-hit countries.
“We can suspend other programs for several months to focus solely on Ebola, but we also need to bring in the surge,” he said in a statement on Monday. “This is only possible if the flights return.”
Experts at the World Health Organization and other relief agencies have been warning for weeks that the flight cancellations will hamper the Ebola effort. But the warnings were ignored.
The travel bans and cancellations are unnecessary because the risk of a passenger carrying Ebola is extremely low, according to the WHO and other experts. Only one such incident has been reported so far.
David Nabarro, a British physician who was appointed by the UN to co-ordinate its Ebola response, told journalists in Sierra Leone that the airlines are “isolating” the Ebola-afflicted countries and “making it difficult” for the UN to do its job.
In one example, a high-level U.S. medical delegation was nearly blocked from a visit to Liberia on the weekend because of cancelled flights. Brussels Airlines, one of the few airlines still serving West Africa, had to halt its flights to the region because Senegal refused to let its planes land in Dakar for crew changes.
The U.S. delegation, including the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was reportedly forced to scramble onto another airline, Delta, at the last minute – but Delta is also suspending its flights to Liberia at the end of this week.