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Ebola prevention management – we must get it right the first time

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Fri, Sep 26, 2014

The spectre of Ebola arriving on the shores of this country is one that is too awful to imagine. Keeping this killer disease out of our country should, therefore, be given priority number one by the officials who have the responsibility to do so.{{more}}

This week, we report that four students from Nigeria have been placed in isolation because they arrived here with inadequate documentation pertaining to their Ebola status. Health officials say that none of the students have so far exhibited any symptoms of ill health, but the fact that they were able to travel over 7,600 km, transiting through at least three airports, without being stopped, means that whatever measures we establish, should not place too much dependence on other countries or agencies to act as gatekeepers.

The officials in the Ministry of Health and the Immigration Department should close whatever loopholes exist in the way we process persons coming from regions where there is an Ebola outbreak. Government should also immediately move to set up its own secure isolation accommodation for persons who manage to enter the country without adequate documentation – the responsibility of keeping these persons away from the general population should not be left up to the medical schools operating here.

No undue consideration should be given to appearing to any stakeholder to be heavy handed in our approach, as in coming up with our strategies to keep Ebola out of St Vincent and the Grenadines, we have to take into consideration our particular circumstances as a developing country.

St Vincent and the Grenadines, like most countries in the region, does not have the resources to deal with an Ebola outbreak. We just do not have the finances, the human resource, equipment or gear in sufficient quantities; keeping our people safe and preventing the spread of the disease should an Ebola infected person arrive here, would be a herculean task.

But thankfully, it is likely that we are still at the stage were preventative measures can keep us safe. The situation calls for constructive engagement by all stakeholders, and that includes our politicians and their surrogates.

There are certain things that we should never play politics with, and this is one of them. We are in general elections mode and it has been observed that some persons have adopted a ‘take no prisoners’ approach to issues – both real and imagined. Let’s not do this with Ebola. Our people must have accurate information and understand their role in keeping SVG Ebola free.

The management of Ebola prevention is not an issue which can be fixed, patched up or rebuilt after the fact. We must get it right the first time.

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