Saturday, 18 October 2014

Ebola travel ban could make things worse: US president Barack Obama

US president Barack Obama says proposals to ban travel from Ebola-ravaged countries in West Africa could make things worse.

A protester outside the White House urges a travel ban to stop the spread of the Ebola virus. (Credit: Reuters) 

US president Barack Obama is urging Americans to avoid hysteria over Ebola, saying proposals to ban travel from Ebola-ravaged countries in West Africa could make things worse.

Some politicians have been urging Mr Obama to bar people from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea from entering the United States.

The call came amid a congressional hearing about the administration's handling of the Ebola outbreak in the US.

Mr Obama had previously said he was not philosophically opposed to travel bans but in his weekly address he made it clear he was not leaning towards them.

"We can't just cut ourselves off from West Africa," he said, explaining that bans would make it harder to move health workers and supplies into the region, and would motivate people trying to get out of the region to evade screening, making it harder to track cases.

"Trying to seal off an entire region of the world - if that were even possible - could actually make the situation worse," he added.

The US president said fighting the disease would take time, warning "before this is over, we may see more isolated cases here in America".

But he sought to put the disease in perspective, reminding Americans that only three cases have been diagnosed in the country and that it is not easy to catch.

"What we're seeing now is not an outbreak or an epidemic of Ebola in America," he said.

"This is a serious disease, but we can't given in to hysteria or fear."

The US president's comments came just days after he appointed White House adviser Ron Klain to coordinate US efforts to contain the virus.

Meanwhile, the Canadian government will ship 800 vials of its experimental Ebola vaccine to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva on Monday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said.

The WHO, in consultation with health authorities in the countries most affected by the outbreak of the disease, will decide on how the vaccine will be distributed and used, the agency said in a statement.

The vaccine is undergoing clinical trials at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in the US, it said.

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