State Department Official: ‘We’ve Been Working Very Hard’ Against Ebola Travel Ban

A State Department official said the federal government has been “working very hard” to discourage any travel bans in response to the Ebola outbreak.

“The travel restrictions are actually something we worked very hard to encourage the international community to avoid. We’ve been working very hard to ensure that travel flows remain open, that travel bans are not the alternative to having a strong public health infrastructure and a strong preparedness capacity,” said Nicolette Louissaint, senior adviser to the state Ebola coordinator in the Ebola Coordination Unit at the Department of State, during a forum titled “Ebola Outbreak in West Africa.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) sponsored the discussion on Tuesday evening.

“It’s about moving healthcare workers. It’s about being able to get goods and services into the region and it’s also about stigma,” Louissaint said.

Louissaint said there’s the “stigmatization” of a region that would be isolated from the rest of the world “when they need us the most.”

“Cutting off commercial airflows would dramatically increase the cost of the response,” she said.

Louissaint’s comments were made in response to a National Institutes of Health trainee asking why the U.S. government has not limited travel to and from nations in West Africa in response to the Ebola crisis.

Aaron Firoved, senior biodefense advisor at the Office of Health Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security, shared a similar view on the travel ban.

“Our best defense here in the United States is a good offense overseas. We are hearing from our international colleagues at the State Department and USAID and CDC to maintain that robust response in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia that it’s important that we move healthcare workers in,” Firoved said.

“It’s important that goods and services continue to be supplied. If people are hungry, they leave the places that they are. You cannot limit the robust response in country and so that’s really why it’s important we maintain these travel corridors,” he added.