Ebola restrictions won’t harm the economy
WINDHOEK – The Minister of Trade and Industry CalleSchlettwein says banning travellers from Ebola-hit countries will not have a significant impact on Namibia’s economy.
The West African countries worst affected by Ebola are Liberia, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, while some airlines including Air France are refusing to fly to there.
“Trade with these countries is not of such a volume that the economy would be seriously affected,” he said on enquiry yesterday.
Schlettwein says Namibia’s only dealings with West African countries concern the transfer of goods via Walvis Bay harbour.
Last week the Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr Richard Kamwi, announced that the government has banned all travellers from countries hit by Ebola as part of precautionary measures to prevent the deadly virus from reaching Namibia.
Botswana is another SADC country that imposed travel restrictions to and from countries affected by Ebola.
Schlettwein says the Ebola outbreak is a serious health risk to Namibia and SADC as a whole and thus it is very important to take all precautions necessary to prevent Ebola spreading to the region.
He added that the economic impact on Namibia in the event of an Ebola outbreak in the country could be very serious indeed.
Air Namibia Head of Corporate Communication, Paul Kakawa, shared similar sentiments saying although it is premature to give an estimation of how the airline would be impacted economically, so far the forecast for the airline’s flight bookings looks promising and encouraging.
He said Air Namibia has an Ebola plan in place and operations and cabin crew manuals have been amended accordingly to deal with the disease.
“This plan does not solely look at the Ebola virus but embraces all precautionary measures for all communicable diseases that may be listed by WHO, IATA and other bodies,” he said, adding that this is now part of Air Namibia’s routine safety and security procedures.
“Our policies on health and medicals to cover the areas of aviation and travel medicine have been revised accordingly,” he stressed.
He said the airline does not have direct flights or operations to West Africa therefore the risk of Ebola entering the country is very slim.
He added that the airline would continue its vigilance and maintain very close contact with travel authorities in the respective cities in which it operates with regard to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
“As an operator the well-being of our passengers is a priority,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Namibia Airports Company (NAC) yesterday announced that the Ministry of Health and Social Services yesterday started using one of the four infrared hand scanners acquired through the World Health Organization (WHO) to screen for possible symptoms of Ebola among passengers arriving at Hosea Kutako International Airport.
The remaining three scanners will be used at Eros, Walvis and Ondangwa airports, to screen, detect and isolate Ebola cases.
“We will continue to liaise with the ministry to ensure that we are ready for this deadly virus at our airports. The big thermal scanners are still in the process of being procured by the ministry of health through the WHO,” said the NAC in a statement
Regionally Air Namibia flies to Lusaka, Luanda, Maun, Victoria Falls, Harare, Johannesburg and Cape Town.