The Gambia government through its relevant Ministries Wednesday cautioned airline companies based in Banjul to adjust to certain international health regulations by the weekend deadline or else face suspension of services.
The decision came amidst fear that the deadly Ebola virus could fast spread to other West African or regional countries if surveillance and other preventive mechanisms are not strengthened.
The deadly disease which has no known cure, even though medical breakthroughs for it look quite promising, started in Guinea and quickly spread over to countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia and now Nigeria.
The Gambia has so far managed to prevent it, but however, given how rapidly it is spreading in West Africa, the country’s health authorities have not been relenting to making sure that the deadly virus spares the nation.
Last Monday, the World Bank (WB) announced US$200 million in emergency funds to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone contain the Ebola outbreak, which has killed nearly a thousand people. Funds are destined for medical equipment, workers’ health support, and other vital materials to stabilize health systems, added the international Guinea has suffered the highest death toll, with 358 fatalities out of 458 confirmed Ebola cases so far. Sierra Leona has had the largest number of cases – 646 overall – with 273 deaths, while Liberia has had 255 deaths out of 468 cases. The latest country to import the disease is Nigeria, which has had eight reported cases.
“The life of the citizenry will not be compromise. The only way for airlines to continue operations between The Gambia and affected countries would be if they put in place all the required gadgets at the airport by the end of the weekend or else government will take its stands,” The Gambia’s Health minister, Omar Sey told a meeting attended by representatives of the airline operators and other stakeholders.
Sey said The Gambia as a country is very concerned about the disease.
“This is why we are looking at the level of preparedness of the airlines that bring in passengers from the affected zones,” he noted.
The Gambia’s Transport minister, Balla Garba Jahumpa bemoaned that the Ebola virus has killed so many people in the sub–region, and this, he noted, is a concern to the people and the government of The Gambia.
“As a responsible government, the lives of the people are more concern to us than anything else,” he declared, commending Arik Airlines for suspending the operations of all its flights to the affected countries.