PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, October 23, 2014 (AMG) — The Government of Trinidad & Tobago has lifted an entry ban on travellers from Nigeria, which it previously imposed as a response to the West African Ebola crisis.
The announcement was made by the country’s Minister of Health, Dr. Fuad Khan, in a post-Cabinet briefing on October 22. Nigeria was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation on October 20, within days of Trinidad & Tobago’s imposition of the ban.
Speaking at the briefing, Khan indicated that Prime Minsiter Persad-Bissessar and her Cabinet had agreed, “based on the information from the WHO, and based on the stringent screening methods in international countries, standard to embarkation and exit of passengers… to lift the ban on the Federal Republic of Nigeria with immediate effect.”
The lifting of the ban comes after a Nigerian woman was denied entry to Trinidad & Tobago on October 17. It also follows criticism from the outgoing Nigerian High Commissioner to Trinidad & Tobago, Musa John Jen, who suggested that Trinidadian authorities should employ better point-of-entry surveillance as an alternative to broad-based bans in response to the epidemic.
Diplomatic considerations: The importance of Nigeria to Trinidad & Tobago as a diplomatic partner was further underscored by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Speaking in advance of Faud’s announcement at an October 21 event, the Prime Minister noted, “we have a lot of Nigerian doctors who work here, a lot of Trinis go to work in Nigeria and in addition, you remember the President, Goodluck Jonathan, had visited us here and he is a friend of ours.”
Meanwhile in neighbouring Barbados, the country’s Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, has defended his Government’s decision against imposing a ban.
Divided regional policies: Speaking to Parliament yesterday, Sealy described regional travel bans as “extremist, and not at all sensible thinking.” Speaking in response to calls from the country’s Opposition party for Barbados to employ similar bans, Sealy queried, “if you go and identify three countries in West Africa where there are Ebola cases and ban travel from there, what happens when you have a couple of cases in the United Kingdom? Are we going to shut down the UK source market and ban travel from there too?”
Barbados, in its Ebola response, has implemented protocols at its ports of entry which, according to the Minister, are functioning as prescribed. As evidence, Minister Sealy revealed to Parlaiment that a foreign oil tanker, the Noble Spirit, was denied entry at the Bridgetown Seaport last week, when two individuals on board reported “Ebola-like symptoms.”
Entry bans on travellers from Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia – also imposed by Trinidad & Tobago – have been retained.