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Ebola: Govt takes more preventative measures

Govt has issued a total travel ban from high risk countries in West Africa.

FILE: Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: Sapa

PRETORIA - With more than R30 million pledged to help contain the West African Ebola outbreak, the health department has also bolstered measures at home to ensure the deadly disease does not enter the country.

Heath Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says government has issued a total travel ban from high risk countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea.

More than 1,350 deaths have so far been reported in West Africa.

Motsoaledi says an inter-ministerial committee led by his department will co-ordinate the country's response to the outbreak.

He says various steps have already been implemented.

"We have facilities for the treatment for the patients, employ personal protective clothing to designated facilities, activated outbreak response teams and are operating a hotline for clinicians."

The minister confirmed that a man suspected of contracting the disease last week has tested negative, and South Africa remains Ebola free.

Travellers from Nigeria, where there is a much smaller outbreak, will be allowed entry.

Video: Ebola travel ban.

'LACK OF LEADERSHIP HURTS EBOLA FIGHT'

Efforts to curb the deadly Ebola epidemic are being undermined by a lack of leadership and emergency management skills, the international head of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Thursday.

In an interview, Joanne Liu also said the world's worst ever outbreak of Ebola has caused widespread panic and the collapse of health care systems particularly in Liberia, where pregnant women have lost babies while seeking a safe place to deliver.

She said Western nations must dispatch more experts in tropical medicine, especially field workers who know how to help communities prevent the often lethal virus from spreading.

And the World Health Organisation (WHO) must fulfil its leading role in coordinating the international response to the epidemic, the president of the global, Swiss-based medical charity told Reuters by telephone.

"I think they are in the process of bringing more people from the WHO but the reality is that this epidemic will be not be contained unless there are more players," Liu said.

"We are missing everything right now. We are missing a strong leadership centrally, with core nation capacity and disease emergency management skills. It's not happening."

MSF has deployed 1,000 of its own staff in the stricken region, running centres that currently have 300 beds, according to Liu who spent 10 days in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone earlier this month.

"All of our centres are overcrowded right now. We have an Ebola centre in Lofa county in Foya (Liberia) which is close to the epicentre. It was meant to be a centre with a capacity of 20 beds. We have more than 125 patients right now," Liu said.

"The same thing with our centre in Monrovia, which we opened only last weekend, with 125 beds and now it's already filled.

We're entertaining the idea of increasing the capacity, if not doubling it," she said.

Additional reporting from Reuters.

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