British Airways is suspending flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia, both African nations stricken by the Ebola virus. The decision to suspend flights will cut off the only direct flights between Britain and the Ebola-infected area of west Africa.
The carrier operates a direct flight four times a week from London to Sierra Leone and on to Liberia, but that route will be suspended “due to the deteriorating public health situation in both countries.” The Telegraph reports that the suspension follows warnings over the weekend from the World Health Organization about the epidemic.
Ebola has killed nearly 900 people in the countries since February, and is spreading faster than it can be controlled. British Airways’ decision to suspend flights is not surprising, given the nature of Ebola and its potential mortality rate of 90 percent. The airline sent a statement to travel companies Tuesday, saying:
“British Airways services from London Heathrow to Freetown in Monrovia will be temporarily suspended from tomorrow, 6 August until 31 August 2014, due to the deteriorating public health situation in both countries.”
A spokesman for the airline added in a statement to ITV News, “The safety of our customers, crew and ground teams is always our top priority and we will keep the route under constant review in the coming weeks.” Customers who already purchased tickets for the suspended flights can receive a full refund and re-book their flights to a later date, notes the Washington Post.
The move by British Airways follows that of several other airlines serving the two countries, as well as neighboring Guinea. Emirates Airlines suspended flights to Guinea earlier this month, while Pan-African airlines Arik and ASKY suspended flights to the other Ebola-stricken nations.
The news comes as two American aid workers have been transported by health workers to Atlanta, Georgia for treatment of Ebola. Public Health Wales also stated Tuesday that an individual may have been exposed to the virus while visiting western Africa. That individual is in isolation and is being monitored by health officials.
Health officials also revealed that and American who died of Ebola in Nigeria is believed to have infected at least eight other people with the hemorrhagic fever. Nigeria’s health commissioner, Jide Idris, said that all eight suspected cases have been documented in Lagos. They involved people who had been in contact with the deceased victim, Patrick Sawyer, who held joint United States and Liberian citizenship.
There is no approved treatment or vaccine for Ebola and the action taken by British Airways to suspend flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia could be followed by more international airlines.
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