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Four students held for lack of proper Ebola documentation

Four students held for lack of proper Ebola documentation

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Four Nigerian students who arrived in St Vincent and the Grenadines to attend medical schools have been isolated for not having the required documentation to show that they are free of the Ebola virus.

Just over three weeks ago, the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment announced that persons travelling from or through Nigeria {{more}}would have restrictions imposed on them in order to gain entry into the state.

The four students, who have not shown any symptoms of being ill, have been isolated in the care of the American University of St Vincent and the All Saints University – the first student having arrived almost three weeks ago and the two most recent, on Sunday, September 21.

“We had issues with the documentation in terms of – in some cases – missing documentation, incomplete documentation, to complete absence [of documentation] in some cases,” said Dr Simone Keizer-Beache, chief medical officer.

“We had requested that all students who come from Nigeria present a medical certificate and a PCR documentation of a negative PCR [which is] a blood test used to determine whether or not they are carrying the Ebola virus.”

Dr Keizer-Beache further said that having discussed the situation with Immigration officials, a decision had been made to remove the students from St Vincent and the Grenadines, but that the process of doing so is taking longer than anticipated.

“The problem is… that once you get into St.Vincent, it is very difficult for them to get out because there are some countries that have already closed their borders… they are not letting certain persons transit,” said the chief medical officer.

“In the mean time, the students have been isolated and are being monitored closely by the Ministry of Health personnel until they can be removed,” she explained.

However, the first student to be isolated here is approaching the 21-day mark (maximum incubation period for the Ebola virus to manifest) “without any signs… of infection”. Therefore, the decision has been made to allow him to remain in SVG if he clears the stipulated time period without developing symptoms.

To discourage other Nigerian students from knowingly travelling here without the required documentation, Keizer-Beache said that the Ministry of Health is “aggressively” tackling the issue of removing the other students.

With the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and LIAT, the relevant embassies and airlines are being contacted and implored to check that travellers to SVG possess the required documents before they leave Nigeria.

“We are also going to ask students to scan the documents and send them ahead to us… before they even board the plane, so we don’t have this issue,” added Keizer-Beache.

The medical schools that the students have enrolled in will be footing the cost of returning the students to their home country, as the institutions were suitably notified of the travel restriction.

“It can’t be the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines that has to [stand the cost to] send them back.”

Keizer-Beache assured that nurses and public health officials have been stationed at the ET Joshua Airport, and that Immigration staff have been sensitised.

All students and other persons who arrive from Nigeria are immediately sent to the nurse to be checked and to present the required documentation. According to the findings, a decision is made on whether to grant entry or not.

The Ministry of Health has imposed a total travel ban on persons who have travelled from or through Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia during a 28-day period.

Those travelling from or through Nigeria and any other West African country during a 28-day period must present upon entry at any SVG port a negative blood test result for Ebola, and a medical certificate confirming a clean bill of health.

The nation’s Ebola risk level remains low based on the evaluation of the Pan American Health Organisation.(JSV)

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