2014 Ebola Outbreak: Dubai’s Emirates Suspends Flights to Guinea, Test on Woman Who Died in UK After Arriving from Gambia Negative
By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | August 4, 2014 3:58 PM EST
Dubai's Emirates Airline has become the first major international airline outside Africa to suspend flights to Guinea, one of three west African nations now reeling over the Ebola virus outbreak.
Health workers carry the body of an Ebola virus victim in Kenema, Sierra Leone, June 25, 2014. The Ebola outbreak has killed 467 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since February, making it the largest and deadliest ever, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). West African states lack the resources to battle the world's worst outbreak of Ebola and deep cultural suspicions about the disease remain a big obstacle to halting its spread, ministers said on Wednesday. Picture taken June 25, 2014. REUTERS/Umaru Fofana (SIERRA LEONE - Tags: HEALTH SOCIETY TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
The flight suspension to Conakry became effective Aug 2 and will be imposed until further notice. Conakry is the capital of Guinea.
"We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers, however the safety of our passengers and crew is of the highest priority and will not be compromised," a statement read.
Global airlines servicing flights to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have started health screening passengers in compliance to directives issued by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Health Organisation.
Both agencies however clarified they were not recommending travel restrictions or border closures.
Last week, Arik Air, Nigeria's largest airline Arik Air, has cancelled its Liberia and Sierra Leone flights. Nigeria's civil aviation authorities likewise suspended pan-African airline Asky for bringing to Lagos the country's first Ebola case which involved Liberian diplomat and US citizen Patrick Sawyer.
Emirate clarified its flight service to Dakar, Senegal, which is linked with Conakry, will not be affected. At least for now. "We will be guided by the updates from international health authorities."
Meantime, health officials in the UK have ruled out the Ebola scare, as medicals tests on a woman who died in the country after arriving from Gambia yielded negative results.
The elderly woman believed to be in her 70s reportedly collapsed at the Gatwick Airport on Saturday morning and was later pronounced dead in East Surrey Hospital in Redhill. She flew aboard a Gambia Bird airline.
The passenger did not have symptoms during the flight, BBC News quoted Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global public health at Public Health England (PHE).
He said the testing was done as a precaution. "The correct procedures were followed to confirm there was no reason to quarantine the airplane, the passengers or staff. PHE can confirm there was no public health risk around the sad death of this individual."
A spokeswoman from Gatwick Airport said the Gambia Bird airline that flew in the elderly woman was later cleared for its return journey, but not after the aircraft, as well as some airline and airport staff, were isolated "as a precaution."
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