As part of the latest developments in the ever-changing landscape in the Ebola crisis, South Africa is the latest nation to issue a travel ban on the Ebola hardest hit nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
The story was first reported late Thursday in the New York-based Wall Street Journal newspaper.
South Africa now joins Kenya, which on Saturday imposed a similar ban on the same three countries in an attempt to prevent the deadly disease from breaching its borders.
The ban on travel from the three nations “will be in place for as long as necessary,” said Jo Maila, a spokesman for the South African Health Ministry.
South Africans returning from these countries would be allowed back home but would have to undergo extensive medical tests upon arrival, Mr. Maila added.
The South African Health Ministry has also advised citizens to postpone trips to the Ebola affected countries facing the ban and would ‘quiz’ citizens insisting on traveling to the three countries at the airports.
Zambia has also banned travelers from the Ebola affected countries.
Of note, South Africa’s Johannesburg O.R. Tambo airport and Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, in Kenya, are the continent's busiest airport hubs.
The World Health Organization has urged airlines and countries to avoid isolating the three West African nations, but that message appears to be falling on deaf ears.
Maila, like other leaders of health ministries in Africa, waved aside the WHO's advice against travel bans. "All other countries are doing this too," he said. Asked if South Africa's decision was a result of Kenya's earlier ban, Mr. Maila said the country had made its own call "based on its own assessment."
To date, there have been no reported cases of the Ebola disease in South Africa with one suspected case turning out to be negative upon testing.
The South African government will grant the health ministry 32.5 million rand, or the equivalent of $3 million U.S. dollars, in emergency funding to step up prevention efforts. Also part of the funding will go towards deploying a mobile laboratory in Sierra Leone.
The African Union (AU) on Tuesday authorized the deployment of a military and civilian humanitarian mission to Ebola-affected areas. That mission will include doctors, health workers and military personnel, the AU said in a statement.