The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) regarding an Ebola virus disease outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is coordinating closely with the WHO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with respect to potential implications for air connectivity.
WHO’s current risk assessment for travel and transport is not recommending any travel restrictions or the closure of borders at points of entry. On the contrary, in its statement on July 17 it’s Emergency Committee explicitly said:
- No country should close its borders or place any restrictions on travel and trade. Such measures are usually implemented out of fear and have no basis in science. They push the movement of people and goods to informal border crossings that are not monitored, thus increasing the chances of the spread of disease. Most critically, these restrictions can also compromise local economies and negatively affect response operations from a security and logistics perspective.
- National authorities should work with airlines and other transport and tourism industries to ensure that they do not exceed WHO’s advice on international traffic.
- The Committee does not consider entry screening at airports or other ports of entry outside the region to be necessary.
In line with WHO guidance, awareness-raising activities initiatives are being conducted for travellers to and from the affected region. As always, passengers are advised not to travel if they are unwell. Any traveller developing symptoms of the Ebola within three weeks of returning from an affected region is advised to seek rapid medical attention.
The air transport industry has dealt with several outbreaks of communicable diseases in recent years. The global response to communicable diseases is governed by the WHO’s International Health Regulations. Airlines follow guidance material which has been developed by WHO, ICAO and IATA.
IATA will continue to monitor developments closely in the Ebola outbreak in close coordination with the WHO and ICAO.