* Passengers from Ebola-hit countries cannot enter
* Gambia passed similar measures last week
* Chinese disease control experts to arrive in West Africa
By Loucoumane Coulibaly and Ange Aboa
ABIDJAN, Aug 11 Ivory Coast, the economic
powerhouse of French-speaking West Africa, on Monday banned air
travellers from the three countries worst-hit by the Ebola
outbreak and ordered its flagship carrier Air Cote d'Ivoire to
cease flights to and from them.
The measures are the latest sign of mounting anxiety about a
disease that has killed nearly 1,000 people in one of the
world's poorest regions and has been branded an international
health emergency by the World Health Organization.
Ivory Coast has not yet registered any cases of the deadly
viral disease but is seen as vulnerable given its shared borders
with Guinea and Liberia.
Chocolate maker Barry Callebaut confirmed it has
cancelled a major meeting of managers in Ivory Coast, the
world's top cocoa grower, due to concerns about Ebola's spread,
in an indication that concern over the outbreak is hurting the
"We have banned flights to and from countries touched by the
virus, notably Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. These places
will no longer be serviced by Air Cote d'Ivoire," Transport
Minister Gaoussou Toure said.
The government has also forbidden all airlines from bringing
passengers from Ebola-infected countries into Ivory Coast, after
similar measures in nearby Gambia and Zambia last week.
Mandatory temperature tests will be put in place at airports
and new screening measures are planned at maritime entry points,
the government said.
The main airport in the commercial capital Abidjan attracts
more than 2 million passengers a year and is a major transit hub
in a region where travel routes are rarely direct, raising the
chances of Ebola contagion.
In the streets of Abidjan, pedestrians hurried towards new
hand sanitising stations while similar products in pharmacies
were selling quickly. Following government recommendations, most
people have stopped the lengthy handshakes that characterise
street conversations - instead waving or nodding their heads.
"Today this disease has arrived and it has no remedy. We are
afraid because we are surrounded by countries where this virus
already exists, like Guinea, and these people come and go here,"
said Patrice Zogba, a computer technician.
Highly contagious, Ebola kills more than half of its
victims. It is believed to have been transferred from fruit bats
to humans in Guinea late last year and then spilled over in
neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia.
The virus has since spread to Nigeria via a passenger from
Liberia who collapsed in the busy Lagos airport in late July and
later died. Nigeria now has more than 10 confirmed Ebola cases,
its health minister said on Monday.
As the disease spreads, the weakness of West African
healthcare systems has been exposed. Liberia, where the disease
is spreading fastest, has only 51 qualified doctors while Sierra
Leone has just 136, according to political risk research company
Chinese state media said on Sunday that Chinese disease
control experts planned to depart to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra
Leone to help control the virus. A Chinese plane carrying
protective suits, disinfectants, thermo-detectors and medicines
arrived in Conakry on Monday, it said.
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly and Ange Aboa; Additional
reporting by Alain Amontchi; Writing by Emma Farge; Editing by
Daniel Flynn and Janet Lawrence)