The outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa has prompted numerous national responses affecting travel and immigration rules and procedures around the world. The disease has infected an estimated 3,685 people and claimed 1,841 lives as of Aug. 31, according to the most recent World Health Organization figures.

  • The U.S. Department of State has issued an alert notifying U.S. citizens of travel restrictions, reduced aviation transportation and screening that will remain in effect until Feb. 27, 2015. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has issued Level Three travel warnings for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, advising against any nonessential travel. The CDC has also issued a Level Two warning for Nigeria, notifying travelers of the outbreak of Ebola in that country. The World Health Organization and CDC have also published and distributed interim guidance to public health authorities, airlines and partners in West Africa on evaluation of risk from people coming from countries that have been affected by the virus. Measures can include screening, medical evaluations and movement restrictions for up to 21 days (the incubation period of the virus). People who display symptoms may be prevented from boarding airplanes. The State Department is advising that anyone who does travel to the affected countries should purchase medical insurance that covers medical evacuation for the Ebola disease since the cost of a medical evacuation is very expensive. Policyholders should confirm that medical care and evacuation services are available at their travel destination prior to travel.
  • S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has also enacted an interim policy affecting nationals from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the U.S. to extend their stays so they won’t have to return to dangerous areas.
  • Saudi Arabia and Qatar have suspended visas for nationals from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Saudi Arabia has also temporarily banned work permits to citizens of the three countries. The ban does not include Nigeria, where there have been 21 cases and seven deaths.
  • Air travel to and from Ebola-affected countries has been curtailed or temporarily suspended by some international, regional and local air carriers. British Airways has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone for the rest of the year, Air France has suspended all flights to and from Sierra Leone, and Emirates Airlines has suspended flights to Guinea.
  • Many countries are now conducting vigorous screening of all visitors who arrive from Ebola-stricken areas. All African countries have implemented measures aimed at screening and preventing spread of the disease. Procedures vary from country to country and may include travel restrictions, medical clearance and health screenings at borders. Last month, India began checking travelers for high temperatures indicating fever and has recently installed thermal scanners at all international airports, where all visitors are now required to be scanned.

BAL Analysis: The Ebola outbreak is beginning to affect worldwide travel and border procedures. BAL will update clients about further changes.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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