Is The Travel Ban On Ebola-Stricken Countries Dangerous?

AP Photo
AP Photo

As the world continues to deal with the international crisis of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Jamaican Government (GOJ) on October 16, 2014 announced that Jamaican citizens and other residents who have travelled to any of the three affected countries (Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone) within 28 days of arriving in the island would be quarantined “in the interest of public health and national security”. The travel ban was announced just hours after an American businessman who spent weeks in Liberia was asked to leave a hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica where he was vacationing with his wife.

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Before the GoJ made the travel ban official, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Senator A.J. Nicholson had said the issuing of travel advisories against travel to West African countries hit by Ebola “could be dangerous and that it sends the wrong message”. He was responding to questions from Opposition Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte as to whether Jamaica was at the time considering the issuing of travel advisories.

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National Security Minister Peter Bunting has said that the ban imposed by Jamaica on persons travelling from three Ebola-affected West African countries is not considered “a big economic loss”. He notes that only 142 persons had travelled from Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea to Jamaica between January 1 and last week Wednesday, October 16, 2014, when the ban was announced. The security minister also indicated that 160 persons from the three countries visited Jamaica in 2013; 138 in 2012; and 159 in 2011.

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Experts have said that travel bans often times do not achieve the goals that are set out for them. Jamaica is a small country that has a fragile economy and depends heavily on tourism, which accounts for 30% of its gross domestic product. Tourism is one of the highest foreign exchange earners for the country. Gross visitor expenditure in 2012 was estimated at approximately US$2.070 billion. This represents an increase of 3.0% against the estimated US$2.008 billion earned in 2011.

Updated from original post published October 21, 2014.

Do you think the travel ban will hurt Jamaica’s already fragile economy?

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