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Prime Minister John Key says the Government will consider following Australia’s lead and suspending visas for travellers from countries affected by ebola but says those numbers are very low.

It’s been revealed three people from affected West African countries have been under monitoring by public health officers after being identified as at risk of exposure.

This week Australia suspended visas for travellers from those countries and is cancelling any temporary visas already issued for those who have not yet left for Australia. Those already granted permanent visas will be allowed to enter, but must be quarantined for three weeks before entering.

Mr Key said the Government was looking at its options and currently relied on passengers to declare if they had been in an affected area. “That’s something we will definitely need to consider. We have a process in place at the moment and we think it’s serving us well but we will continue to take advice on both what other countries are doing and what we think will work appropriately for us.”

However, he said New Zealand only had about one person arriving each day, mostly from Nigeria which has been cleared of ebola. Australia has had more than 300 people arrive from affected countries while New Zealand had about 74. He said relying on passengers to declare did have some risks, but the alternative was an in-depth look at each passenger’s passport details which was very cumbersome.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said said 74 people from affected West Africa countries had come to New Zealand since August 10 and three of those identified as being at risk of exposure but had since been cleared.

Those three people had been contacted daily by public health officers and had temperature checks twice a day. He said nobody was currently on temperature monitoring but it was possible there would be an ebola scare.

“It’s a practical possibility, but I think it’s very unlikely we will get a case of ebola though.”

There were powers to quarantine if necessary but ebola was only infectious once symptoms appeared and public health officers would keep a close eye on that.

He said airline pre-screening processes identified some and passengers were also expected to voluntarily declare if they had visited an affected country. Those who had were then asked a series of six questions to assess the risk they had been exposed.

NZ Herald

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