Government bars arrivals from countries worst affected by Ebola

The Government of Maldives will no longer issue on-arrival visas to travellers arriving from countries heavily affected by the Ebola outbreak.

Arrivals from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea will not be issued visas, third country nationals who have visited these countries will not be granted entry until 21 days have elapsed.

“The Government of Maldives has taken these decisions based on the need to protect the Maldives from the disease, and to assure both nationals and tourists of the seriousness with which the matter is being taken by the authorities,” explained the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The current outbreak of the virus was first reported in March this year and has gone on to kill more than 4000 people in West Africa, making it more deadly than all previous ebola epidemics combined.

Minister of Defence and acting health minister Mohamed Nazim last night announced the measures during a ceremony at the health ministry, expressing his hope that the disease not spread to a country as vulnerable as the Maldives.

Thirty day visas are currently provided on arrival to over one million tourists visiting the Maldives each year. The generous visa rules have also made the country a popular transit point for refugees.

man from Nigeria was place in quarantine in Hulhumalé late last month after appearing to be unwell, though he was later found to have no symptoms of the virus.

During a health ministry press conference held following this incident, officials explained that all arrivals from the affected region were being screened at immigration and monitored upon their release.

HPA Epidemiologist Dr Aishath Aroona Abdulla noted at the time that 109 individuals from the affected areas had visited the Maldives since screening began, but that none had come from the three worst affected countries.

A press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday reiterated the “quite insignificant” levels of travel between the countries in question and the luxury tourist destination.

Visitors from Africa made up just 0.7 percent of all tourist arrivals to the Maldives in 2013, with 0.4 percent of these coming from South Africa.

In late August the government advised Maldivian nationals against travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It was announced yesterday that any Maldivians returning from the three heavily affected countries will now be isolated for the duration of the 21 day incubation period.

The first symptoms of the disease – currently known to be transmitted only through direct contact and bodily fluids – include fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache, and a sore throat. This is followed by diarrhoea and vomitting.

The disease can impair the functioning of organs such as the kidneys and liver and can result in internal and external bleeding. There is currently no vaccine or cure for Ebola and past outbreaks have had fatality rates of up to 90 percent.


Hithadhoo patients complaining of missing gynaecologist, physician and X-ray machine

Seenu Hithadhoo regional hospital is missing its gynaecologist, physician and x-ray machine, leading to many complaints from patients.

The hospital’s head, Ahmed Mohamed, said the hospital’s only gynaecologist had not shown up for work for a week, while the X-ray machine was damaged and the only physician had departed after completing his contract.

”We have informed the health ministry and they said they will fix all the problems as soon as possible.”

He said there were a lot of patients waiting for the gynaecologist and a lot of complaints from patients due to the broken X-ray machine and missing physician.

He said the nurses and senior medical officers at the hospital were taking care of the women waiting for gynecologist.

”There is a private hospital in this island where they can take X-rays,” he said, ”and people who need to X-ray have to use the machine in that hospital.”

He said that more than 15,000 people lived on the island and more than 150 patients came to Hithadhoo Regional Hospital every day.

Deputy director general of ministry of health Abdul Samad Abdul Rahman said the ministry had received information about all the issues.

”The gynaecologist has told us that she will come out for work tomorrow,” Rahman said, ”and we have been trying with the ADK hospital to fix the X-ray machine.”

He said the ministry was trying to hire a physician and a doctor from abroad, both of whom have been scheduled to arrive next month.