January 14, 2015 By Victoria Saffa
Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to China, His Excellency Victor Bockarie Foh, says he was subjected to vigorous screening at the Beijing International Airport following his return to China after a recent trip to Sierra Leone.
The envoy was speaking over the weekend as the Chinese government increased health checks for passengers from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the worst hit Ebola nations in West Africa.
The three countries have recorded more than 20,000 Ebola cases since the beginning of last year when the virus was first reported in Guinea. And more than half of that number has died as the three countries struggle to end the outbreak.
Speaking from China, Ambassador Foh said despite being subjected to vigorous screening by China health authorities, he was okay with the procedure. “I have no problem with the Chinese government for stepping up restrictions on travelers from these countries. If you fly with a disease like this, it is like flying with a bomb,” he said.
He, however, voiced his concern that nationals from the three countries have been unable to travel to China due to new visa procedures.
The former Secretary-General of the ruling All People’s Congress, who was in the country to see firsthand efforts to stem new Ebola infection and contribute to the collective efforts in the fight against the virus, advised business people not to turn away from China as the country has helped the government immensely through various means to contain and eradicate the disease.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied there are any changes in visa policy for Sierra Leonean applicants, noting that most travelers from the West Africa country are either on business or study trip.
A statement from the ministry said over 438,000 people from West Africa traveled to China last year, mostly on business.
China has not reported any case of Ebola on its soil, but authorities are careful to prevent such from happening, and have stepped up screening at all entry points for flights coming from West Africa.