BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Labor Ministry said Friday that it would suspend work permits for citizens of countries that have witnessed an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, as the World Health Organization warned the disease was moving faster than efforts to control it.
“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 statement did not include Nigeria, where cases have also been found.
The ministry said it made the decision in consultation with the Health Ministry, which is taking measures at the airport and border crossings to combat Ebola. The disease has so far killed an estimated 790 people and infected more than 1,200 others since the beginning of the year.
Lebanon has begun taking preventive measures at the Rafik Hariri International Airport by examining passengers who might have symptoms of fever.
The Health Ministry, coordinating with the WHO, has distributed awareness-raising brochures and flyers to all passengers who pass through the airport.
“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 the international airport to meet with the facility’s medical team.
The health minister expressed his sympathy for the concerns of the Lebanese with regard 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, he would be quarantined at the airport before being handed over to the Health Ministry’s team in the facility. The passenger would also then be screened using thermal cameras, Abu Faour said.
The Foreign Ministry, for its part, announced it had sent instructions to Lebanese missions in the affected West African countries and was prepared to provide all necessary support to Lebanese living there.
Meanwhile, presidents from the affected countries met in Guinea’s capital, as Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, said the meeting “must be a turning point” in the battle against Ebola.
“If the situation continues to deteriorate, the consequences can be catastrophic in terms of lost lives but also severe socio-economic disruption and a high risk of spread to other countries,” she said.
Ebola is not an airborne disease but is spread via bodily fluids, such as blood, mucus and semen, where it can survive for up to three months. Symptoms include rapid fever and flu-like symptoms, which then progress to vomiting, diarrhea and organ failure followed by internal and external bleeding.
The fatality rate has been about 60 percent, and the scenes of patients bleeding from the eyes, mouth and ears has led many relatives to keep their sick family members at home instead of seeking medical treatment.