14 August 2014
South African Airways will continue to operate in West Africa despite the Ebola outbreak, in line with World Health Organisation recommendations, while stepping up measures to protect its passengers, crew and ground staff, the airline said on Wednesday.
The airline noted that the WHO’s emergency committee on the Ebola outbreak, after meeting in Geneva last week, concluded that there should be no general ban on international travel or trade to West Africa.
“Having noted the announcement by WHO, SAA has stepped up measures aimed at protecting its passengers, crew and ground staff,” South African Airways spokesperson Tlali Tlali said on Wednesday.
SAA flies to five destinations in West Africa, namely Abidjan (Ivory Coast), Accra (Ghana), Cotonou (Benin), Dakar (Senegal) and Lagos (Nigeria).
“There is no travel ban to any of these destinations as a result of the outbreak of the virus in that region. The airline remains committed to ensuring the enforcement of international health protocols associated with air transport.”
Tlali said that vigilant staff would be on the lookout for passengers showing symptoms associated with the Ebola virus – including sweating, nose bleeding and vomiting – adding that SAA staff are adequately trained to manage incidents of this nature, should the need arise.
Should a passenger show symptoms at check-in, he or she will be isolated at once before undergoing interviews and tests conducted by the health authorities. “In the event that there is any doubt regarding the medical condition of any passenger, SAA may elect to deny such passenger/s to board its aircraft,” Tlali said.
“In cases where passengers develop symptoms after the aircraft has commenced its flight, the crew on board will initiate specific procedures that include isolating such passengers from others on board.”
The virus is not airborne and so no transmission can occur via air circulation in the cabin. Rather, it is transmitted through infected bodily fluids.
Each of SAA’s aircraft has been equipped with special protective gear to enable the crew to respond appropriately, as well as a special biohazard waste disposal kit.
SAA will remain in communication with local health authorities and monitor the situation on a continuous basis, enabling it to review its decisions in the light of any future developments.
“SAA would like to urge everyone travelling to the West African region to take the necessary precaution and be vigilant,” Tlali said.