Australia announced on Monday that it is “temporarily suspending” processing visa applications from residents of Ebola-affected countries of West Africa. Several people have been tested for Ebola in the country, but so far, no cases have been reported.
The move also restricts the entry of people from West Africa seeking refuge in the country on humanitarian grounds, according to media reports. As of now, several people from Ebola-affected nations are reportedly being held in a mandatory 21-day home quarantine in Queensland. australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison reportedly told parliament on Monday that the new measures were intended to protect Australian citizens from the virus.
“These measures have been put in place in partnership with the Minister for Health, who leads the Government’s response,” Morrison reportedly said. “These measures include temporarily suspending our immigration program, including our humanitarian program, from Ebola-affected countries, and this means we are not processing any application from these affected countries…We are ensuring all prior humanitarian entrants have been subject to three separate health checks before departure, as well as, on arrival, screening processes.”
The announcement comes amid increasing criticism by opposition parties of the Tony Abbott-led government’s response to the Ebola outbreak, according to media reports. On Monday, the Labor Party reportedly intensified its criticism of the government’s decision to not send any health workers to West Africa to aid international efforts to combat the disease.
The Australian government has so far pledged $18 million in funds to fight the disease, but has stopped short of sending medical teams to West Africa, reportedly citing insufficient safety guarantees for its health care personnel.
Meanwhile, an 18-year-old woman from Guinea, who arrived in Brisbane 12 days ago, tested negative for the virus on Monday after developing a fever on Sunday, according to media reports.
According to the world Health Organization, the current Ebola outbreak, which is the deadliest on record, has so far killed nearly 5,000 people since March, and infected over 10,000 people, mostly in West Africa. The disease has also spread to the United States, where the first confirmed death from Ebola was reported from Dallas on Oct. 8.