By Francis Kagolo
AUTHORITIES have asked airlines landing or transiting through any of the five East African Community (EAC) member states to introduce special surveillance forms for tracking down Ebola suspects.
In a bid to keep Ebola at bay, regional authorities also want airlines and airport managers to restrict international travel of Ebola disease contacts or cases “unless the travel is part of an appropriate supervised medical evacuation”.
The measures were passed by the national civil aviation authorities and national airport authourities of the EAC partner states in an emergency meeting last Thursday.
The meeting was held at Entebbe under the auspices of the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency of the EAC (EAC-CASSOA).
It was chaired by Harrison Machio, the safety manager at the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) and attended by delegates from the EAC secretariat and the five member states. Uganda’s ministries of health and the one for the EAC affairs also sent delegates.
Besides West Africa where it has killed over 1,400 people in six months, Ebola outbreak was confirmed in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the weekend. The highly contagious disease had killed 13 Congolese by Monday.
A press release issued after the meeting says the surveillance forms provided aboard will be filled-in by all arriving passengers.
“Provide medical advice about Ebola Virus Disease to all travellers to and from the high risk regions of the world. Take measures to ensure the protection from Ebola infection of passengers, airline crew and staff including those working in affected regions of West Africa.”
Jesca Eriyo, the EAC deputy secretary general in charge of productive and social sectors reiterated the high economic and social impact Ebola can have in the region. She also called for a structured way to handle the Ebola threat head-on.
Other recommendations from the meeting include:
- Intensify entry screening of all persons at international airports, seaports and major land crossings especially those from the highest risk countries of West Africa.
- Provide medical advice about Ebola to all travellers to and from the high risk regions
- Institute measures to detect, investigate and manage Ebola cases including access to qualified diagnostic laboratory, referral health services, isolation and evacuation.
- Take measures to protect passengers, airline crew and staff including those working in affected regions of West Africa from Ebola
- Establish and test National Aviation Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans.
- Foster effective lines of communication between the Public Health Sector and the Civil Aviation Sector including airlines to prevent Ebola and other communicable diseases from spreading into the region
- Develop and test contingency plans on business continuity management for airports, airlines and other related businesses at the airport.
- Strengthen surveillance and management of on-board cases of Ebola suspects and other communicable diseases
- Enforce the use of Public Health Passenger Locator Form (PLF) for contacts tracing of potentially exposed travellers.
- EAC Secretariat and CASSOA to develop a Monitoring and Evaluation Tool to follow-up on the implementation of the above recommendations and make a detailed report on the progress to the EAC Council of Ministers before November 30.
Airlines asked to carry Ebola surveillance forms