SYDNEY Oct 28 (Reuters) – Australia has issued a blanket ban on visas from West African nations affected by the Ebola outbreak to prevent the disease reaching the country, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said, becoming the first rich nation to shut its doors to the region.
Australia has not recorded a case of Ebola despite a number of scares, and conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott has so far resisted repeated requests to send medical personnel to help battle the outbreak on the ground.
The decision to refuse entry for anyone from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, while touted by the government as a necessary safety precaution, was criticised by experts and advocates as politically motivated and shortsighted.
“The government has strong controls for the entry of persons to Australia under our immigration programme from West Africa,” Morrison told parliament on Monday.
“These measures include temporarily suspending our immigration programme, including our humanitarian programme from Ebola-affected countries, and this means we are not processing any application from these affected countries.”
All non-permanent or temporary visas were being cancelled and permanent visa holders who had not yet arrived in Australia will be required to submit to a 21-day quarantine period, he added.
A number of U.S. states, including New York and New Jersey, have also imposed mandatory quarantines on returning doctors and nurses amid fears of the virus spreading outside of West Africa. Federal health officials say their approach is extreme.