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S/Africa, Japan lift travel bans on Liberia

More than two weeks after the World Health Organization or WHO certificated Liberia Ebola-freed, Japan and South Africa, two of several nations that banned Liberian travels and visas issuance have lifted such restrictions against the post-Ebola West African state.

South Africa’s Embassy near Monrovia announced the lifting of travel restrictions against travelers from Liberia, while Japanese Ambassador Kaoru Yoshimura also announced the lifting of travel ban on Liberia when he met Liberia’s Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan on the margins of the just ended ECOWAS 47th Summit in Accra, Ghana.

Prior to overcoming the deadly Ebola crisis that killed 4,716 victims, including 189 health workers here, Liberia was recorded to have had the highest number of deaths among the three worst-hit West African states where the WHO observed the “largest, longest and most complex outbreak” since Ebola emerged in 1976.

In the heat of the terrifying Ebola crisis when Liberia’s poor health system and weak economy were being crippled as some investors and companies halted operations, South Africa and Japan were among other countries denying travels and banning visas issuance to Liberians to prevent their countries being affected.

Calls by Liberian, Guinean and Sierra Leonean authorities to the international community, seeking reversal to being isolated by other states were strengthened by resolution from the UN, WHO and AU against restrictions and stigmatization of affected states.

But Liberia’s Foreign Minister, Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, observed that excluding some friendly countries and partners, others have since the outbreak in West Africa, denied travels and visa issuance to people coming from the region, including Liberia, in spite of UN, WHO and AU’s resolution against such restrictions and stigmatization. 

On 9 May when the WHO declared Liberia Ebola freed, Mr. Ngafuan told journalists at the WHO-run Island Clinic ETU on Bushrod Island that the country was now going to ask other nations to now lift restrictions against Liberia because “Ebola is gone.”

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Roughly 16 days after Liberia was declared Ebola freed, the governments of Japan and South Africa have lifted their travel bans against Liberia. 

The Foreign Ministry here says in separate messages both governments said they were lifting those restrictions. 

Japan said it has decided to resume economic cooperation projects that have been suspended due to the outbreak of Ebola.

These projects include the reconstruction of the Somalia Drive in Monrovia; rehabilitation of Monrovia Power System and the reopening of JICA Liberia field office shortly, a statement dated May 25 said. 

Japan also says with the resumption of training programs that have also been suspended due to the Ebola outbreak, JICA is currently confirming with institution that will accept Liberia trainees. 

In the same vein, the South African Embassy near Monrovia said the decision by its government lifting travel restrictions for travelers from Liberia is in accordance with WHO’s guidelines, that Liberia is free of Ebola.

South Africa says travelers from Liberia will no longer require prior application for permission to travel to South Africa with immediate effect. Travelers from Liberia, as with all travelers, will be required to undergo thermal screening at the ports of entry, added the South African Envoy to Liberia.-Press Release

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