Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - In an attempt to prevent a possible outbreak of Ebola, Nepal has decided to monitor closely for the next three weeks all foreigners coming by land or air (or already arrived) from countries affected by the virus, said Santaraj Subedi, chief secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers. "If necessary, we will put them under quarantine."
The government has imposed a ban on Nepali citizens from visiting African countries. In announcing these decisions, the authorities expressed their condolences for the death of Fr Miguel Pajeras, a Spanish priest and the first missionary to die from Ebola.
"People under watch will be held at Bir Hospital and Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital for three weeks," Dr Baburam Marasini, director of an epidemiological centre, told AsiaNews.
The authorities have also set up screening centres at the airport in Kathmandu and along the borders with India and China.
The government's decision has provoked criticism from hotels and other businesses in the tourism sector. "Systematic control of foreigners," said hotel owner Tasi Dewan, "will make them feel criminalised and humiliated. Nobody will come to Nepal any more if we do not treat them with respect and responsibility."
The first case of Ebola infection was recorded last February in Guinea, followed by Sierra Leone and Liberia. So far, more than 1,000 people have died and hundreds - including doctors and nurses - have been affected. Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, is the last to have been reported the disease. Yesterday, local authorities announced the first three deaths.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also classified Kenya as "high risk" because it is a transportation major hub. Many flights to West Africa make a stopover in the East African nation.
Ebola is a very aggressive virus that causes haemorrhagic fevers. Death occurs in 90 per cent of cases. It spreads by contact with the blood and body fluids of infected persons.
There is no effective treatment and the recent outbreak has prompted the WHO to declare an international emergency.