Australia suspends visas for people travelling from Ebola-hit countries

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Australia's Immigration Minister Scott Morrison leaves after an interview with Reuters in Phnom Penh 26 September 2014.Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the country will be suspending visas temporarily

Australia temporarily stops issuing visas to people from countries affected by Ebola, in a bid to stop the virus from entering the country.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison told parliament that Australia would suspend its immigration programme for such travellers.

The restriction comes after an 18-year-old who arrived from West Africa earlier this month was admitted to hospital with a fever.

She later tested negative for Ebola.

Mr Morrison said on Monday that those who have received non-permanent or temporary visas and who have not yet left for Australia will have their visas cancelled.

Those with permanent visas can enter the country, but have to be quarantined for 21 days prior to arriving.

Mr Morrison said that since August, more than 830 people arriving in Australia have been referred for further assessment after the government introduced a new screening system.

None of them were admitted to hospital, he said.

There are currently 19 people from West Africa who are in "home-isolation" in Queensland, after they arrived in Australia under a humanitarian programme earlier this month, according to the AAP.

One of them was the 18-year-old who later tested negative for Ebola.

More than 10,000 people have contracted the Ebola virus, with 4,922 deaths, the World Health Organization says. All but 27 of the cases have occurred in West Africa - inside Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

The UK and US have asked for Australia's help to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

Australia has contributed millions to combat Ebola, but will not send Australian medical teams to Africa until an "iron-clad" agreement on evacuating health workers who may become infected is reached. The government wants a third country to provide assistance as Australia is too far for a direct medical evacuation.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government has been criticised by the opposition for not doing enough to combat the crisis.

Ebola virus disease (EVD)

Media caption,

How Ebola survivors’ blood is saving lives

  • Symptoms include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage
  • Spread by body fluids, such as blood and saliva
  • Fatality rate can reach 90% - but current outbreak has mortality rate of about 70%
  • No proven vaccine or cure
  • Fruit bats, a delicacy for some West Africans, are considered to be virus's natural host