MOSCOW, August 19 (RIA Novosti) - Amid the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged airports to maintain services to West African countries, battling the deadly disease, Bloomberg reported on Monday.
“They have been very clear that travel and trade bans are unnecessary,” Raphael Kuuchi, IATA’s vice president for Africa said during the Africa Aviation Day conference in Johannesburg, citing the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Unless this advice changes, we hope that countries, working hard to eradicate Ebola, continue to benefit from air connectivity,” Kuuchi added.
IATA spoke up after Kenya Airways this past weekend reported that it would follow the advice of the Kenyan health ministry and discontinue flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone, starting August 19, Bloomberg reported. Korean Air Lines said it will end flights to Nairobi on August 20, while on August 16th Cameroon announced that it is banning flights to three West African countries, hit by the disease, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Local airports, surrounding the three countries, as well as top airlines British Airways and Emirates have also limited their flights to the region.
“Ebola is a terrible disease, but it is not easy to contract,” IATA’s Kuuchi said. “It can only be caught through contact with bodily fluids. It is almost impossible to be infected by someone on a flight.”
IATA claimed that airport screening, necessary isolation practices, and airplane disinfection are sufficient processes to prevent the spread of the disease. WHO also declared Ebola transmission via aviation “low risk.” In its 48 years of known existence, only one case of Ebola is believed to have spread in an airplane, in a case reported last month that infected a Liberian official, Bloomberg reported.
Brussels Airlines is continuing to provide flights to all four Ebola-hit countries, while Air France is maintaining its flights to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Lagos, with a specialized Ebola prevention plan.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has affected Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, has claimed 1,140 lives, while 2,127 people have been infected since its outbreak in February, according to the latest World Health Organization figures.