BEIRUT: Lebanese officials sought to assure the public Friday that the government was proactively addressing the risk of Ebola virus, as the World Health Organization warned that an African outbreak of the deadly virus was moving faster than efforts to control it.
"Measures carried out by the Health Ministry at the airport are more than enough, and if airlines cooperate in the required manner, then the Lebanese have nothing to fear,” Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said while at Beirut's airport to meet with the facility's medical team.
The health minister expressed his sympathy for the concerns of the Lebanese with regards to a local spread of the virus but assured the public that the proactive measures in place “sometimes even exceed requirements suggested by the World Health Organization."
Abu Faour said the airport was requiring airlines transporting travelers from countries such as Liberia and New Guinea that have high prevalence rates to report any passenger displaying Ebola symptoms to the Lebanese authorities.
If a passenger displays vomiting or high temperatures, the passenger will be quarantined at the airport before handing him over to the Health Ministry’s team in the facility. The passenger will also be screened using thermal cameras, Abu Faour said.
The health minister said that most of the travelers coming from high prevalence countries did not come directly to Lebanon and were therefore subject to health inspections in other airports prior to their arrival.
“This does not relieve us of our responsibilities at all,” he added, stressing that the ministry’s airport team had been strengthened since the corona virus scare at the airport earlier this year.
“The team founded by the Health Ministry has about 18 people including doctors, health monitors and nurses. ... The medical team still exists and procedures have been in place for more than five months and now there is an increase in procedures and instructions,” Abu Faour added.
He called on the Lebanese citizens to "trust the state and procedures employed by the Health Ministry because these procedures are prone to revision and continuous development."
The health minister noted that there had not yet been any discovery of the Ebola virus in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry instructed its diplomatic missions in the four Ebola-hit countries to provide citizens with all needed help as well as preventative means to combat the virus.
It also asked them to facilitate travel procedures for those seeking to leave.
The ministry also referred guidelines and recommendations it had received from WHO to the health and Labor ministries.
The World Health Organization warned that the spread of Ebola was advancing beyond the efforts to check it in West Africa.
WHO Margaret Chan said that demands from the crisis were far outstripping the capacity of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea to respond, according to Reuters. The WHO is to meet on Aug. 6-7 to decide whether to declare an international health crisis over the outbreak, which has already killed more than 700 people in the three West African nations and raised concerns over possible spreading since a traveler in Nigeria died from the virus.
Lebanon’s Labor Ministry said Friday that it would suspend work permits for citizens of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, part of the government’s measures to prevent a possible spread of the deadly virus.
"In order to preserve the general safety and in accordance with the measures that need to be taken to prevent an Ebola outbreak, the Labor Ministry will stop receiving [labor] requests or proceed with requests for citizens of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia,” a statement by the ministry said.
The ministry said it made the decision in consultation with the Health Ministry.