By Victoria Ojeme, Lawani Mukairu, Daniel Eteghe, Monsur Olowoopejo & Gabriel Olawale
COTE d’Ivoire 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 Organisation.
Cote d’Ivoire 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 regional economy.
“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 Cote d’Ivoire, 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 two million passengers a year and is a major transit hub in a region where travel