Canada will extend and broaden its travel ban to seven African countries, including South Sudan, Chad and Nigeria, in response to increasing evidence that the Ebola virus poses a growing threat in the region.
The ministry for public safety said Thursday that it would temporarily restrict travel from the countries to the predominantly North American region of the continent. The decision means that for six months, Canadians cannot cross the border between the three countries of the region.
Although the order does not apply to travelers entering Canada through third countries, the minister of public safety, Ralph Goodale, said Canadians have a responsibility to report on those from those countries who are sick or infectious.
“People must be on the lookout for symptoms and timely and appropriate reporting of those symptoms when appropriate is of prime importance,” Goodale said in a statement.
“In an unpredictable and interconnected world, the health and safety of Canadians is paramount. Health and safety issues are among the most important issues facing us, and we are taking all appropriate steps, in partnership with international partners, to improve our understanding and manage these issues.”
The ban restricts travel from the countries to the highly populated region of the Americas, encompassing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, Guam, Saipan and Tinian, said Carl Vallee, a spokesman for the public safety ministry.
The countries now include the United States, which did not immediately respond to an email.
Vallee said that Thursday’s announcement was unrelated to the Caribbean Health Emergency Preparedness Compact. Many Canadian officials and media reports reported on that agreement, signed by the two governments in November, on Feb. 6.
“We don’t know if the emergency action plan is triggered, but it’s about getting ahead of any potential threat,” Vallee said.
Vallee said the restrictions were effective immediately, meaning they will not take effect until the minister signs an implementation order.
Since the release of a graphic warning from Canadian public health officials on Tuesday, in which one official said Ebola “poses an imminent risk to health in Canada,” Canadians have been advised to stay home if they may come into contact with those from the affected countries.
“The risk of risk to Canadians travelling to these countries is highly elevated,” the public health official said in a statement. “The risk for healthcare workers, their families and personal contacts who may be sick or sickened while in these countries is uncertain. Health officials and hospitals in these countries are fully prepared to respond to international or regional outbreaks.”
Vallee said that travel risk is actually “low” between North America and the Caribbean, but it does vary based on the city in which a citizen is traveling.