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PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten has issued an Ebola travel ban and will deny entry or transit to persons who have travelled in the past 21 days to, from and through countries where the outbreak is not contained.

Persons who have travelled to, from or through Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo will not be allowed to enter or transit St. Maarten.

The decision was made based on an advice from health officials of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour VSA, Health Minister Cornelius de Weever said in a statement last night.

“This travel ban will also apply to persons who have been in contact with a suspected or confirmed Ebola case from affected Ebola countries. The travel ban will remain in effect until the areas and countries are declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation,” De Weever said in the release.

As it relates to boats and cruise ships visiting the country, no person or persons on board a boat or ship who “fit the profile” will be allowed to come to shore.

“No passenger on the boat or ship will be allowed to come off the ship; incoming flights with suspect cases will be allowed to land, refuel and return to the country of origin,” the statement said. “A person or persons returning from Ebola-affected countries that are registered in St. Maarten will be allowed to enter St. Maarten under the condition that they are quarantined for at least 21 days upon arrival.”

The statement said one “cannot get Ebola easily. Ebola is not an airborne disease spread by breathing air. You can’t get it through casual contact with someone. The only way you can get this disease is by coming into direct contact with the bodily fluids (e.g. blood, bodily secretions) of someone with symptoms. The incubation period from time of infection to symptoms is two to 21 days.

The ban was put into effect “to ensure that the people of St. Maarten are protected and that the economy of the country is not impacted negatively in any form or fashion with respect to the Ebola virus disease,” the statement read.

The Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. The current outbreak is believed to have originated in Guinea in December 2013, the statement said. The outbreak has reached community transmission and impacts two additional countries: Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The Emergency Committee of the World Health Organisation declared in August 2014 that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa constituted an extraordinary event and a public health risk to other countries; that the possible consequences of further international spread were particularly serious. Ebola is considered a public health emergency of international concern.

“The Government of St. Maarten has been working to put the necessary plans and protocols in place along with our stakeholders and partners, in order to protect the public health of the St. Maarten community. These plans are in line with our international obligations to the WHO with respect to international health regulations,” according to the release.

The West African country of Mali reported its first confirmed case of Ebola on October 23. Senegal and Nigeria officially have been declared by the WHO as Ebola-free.

“This is a reminder that this disease can be contained and defeated. The situation surrounding Ebola is fluid and one must be prepared to take the necessary measures … to keep St. Maarten safe,” the statement read.

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