Defiant Kenya Airways to continue flying to West Africa

by Elayne Wangalwa 0

This is despite calls for travel restrictions to be imposed on countries affected by the current Ebola outbreak with many Kenyans speaking out on social media with #SomeonetellKenyaAirways.

Meanwhile, Korean Air Lines Co, the flag carrier and the largest airline of South Korea, intends to suspend flights to the East African nation in a week’s time as a measure to prevent the spread of Ebola.

(READ MORE: Kenya borders prone to Ebola threat: WHO)

“We will continue operating in those countries but with guidance from experts in those countries and relevant agencies,” said the airlines CEO Titus Naikuni during a press briefing at the airport.

No Ebola cases have ever been reported in the country albeit its neighbour Uganda having the deadly outbreak on three occasions in the past. Nonetheless, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified Kenya as a high risk area for Ebola transmission which is affecting West African states.

The country receives more than 76 flights weekly at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, which is the region’s main transit point for travellers to and from West Africa making it vulnerable to the recent outbreak.

(READ MORE: African airlines take precautions against Ebola)

However, the country’s cabinet secretary for health, James Macharia, said that the government is taking the necessary measure to guarantee a limited spread of the virus.

“The ministry [of health] has been working with airlines to screen travellers who come from or are in transit through West Africa. For such, travellers have a minimum package of information including personal details, exact location of origin, transit and presence of any suggestive signs and symptoms are collected to aid personal risk assessment and daily follow up for 21 days if they are still resident in the country. To date we have screened more than 10,000 travellers from West Africa,” Macharia said during a press briefing in Nairobi.

West Africa is experiencing the largest and most sever and complex outbreak of the Ebola virus in history. The hardest hit countries are Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. Nigeria is the latest country to be affected by the virus where three people have died and about 11 cases confirmed with Ebola.

As of Wednesday, WHO said the death toll had climbed to 1,069 and a total of 1,975 confirmed, probable and suspected Ebola cases reported.

WHO expressed disappointment via twitter on airlines that have suspended flights to the affected nations in West Africa. “It is hard to save lives if we and other health workers cannot get in,” the post read.