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Kenya Airways under pressure to suspend West Africa operations

13 August 2014, 18:34 Victor Tinto

Nairobi - Kenya Airways might be forced to cancel flights to West Africa after increased pressure by the public and parliament to cease operations in West Africa due to the Ebola virus.

The airline has continued to operate in west Africa despite the continued spread of the virus in the region, stating that it has been taking the correct precautions.

But with the World Health Organization saying Kenya is prone to the virus and the government on the back foot over its preparation as regards the matter, the airline has been forced to reconsider its stand on operating in west Africa.

" Senior management within KQ have today been reviewing facts and advise from IATA, Word Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Health Kenya Government on air operations into the Ebola affected regions of West Africa, a statement signed by CEO Titus Naikuni said Wednesday.

" While none of these institutions have strongly advised that air operations should cease, Kenya Airways has religiously followed the advise given by the same to mitigate risks associated with flying there.

" KQ Management also takes cognizance of the sentiments coming out of other stakeholders and are taking them into consideration in the aforementioned review process. In view of this, Kenya Airways will be making a statement tomorrow on the future of its operations to the Ebola hit countries, the statement finished.

The parliamentary caucus on human rights, Wednesday called on the airline to stop flights to West Africa to minimize Ebola virus risk spreading to Kenya.

This follows a warning from the World Health Organization WHO earlier in the day that the country is vulnerable to Ebola.

" We urge Kenya Airways to as a matter of grave concern consider stopping flights to the region to enhance the country's security against Ebola, the Caucus said in a statement.

The message from the caucus came despite government efforts to assure Kenyans that the country is safe from the disease.

The Kenya Airports Airports Authority had also said that it has started separate screening for the virus at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport JKIA but the caucus said that it was not enough to protect Kenyans.

" Kenyans need to be protected and that will only be achieved if flights from the region cease from our national carrier, it added.

The government said it has stepped up surveillance at all points of entry following the alert from the World Health Organization that the country is highly vulnerable to transmission of the deadly virus.

Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said President Uhuru Kenyatta has ordered state agencies to intensify surveillance measures at the main airports and borders.

"The ministry of health has been closely monitoring the evolution of Ebola outbreak in West Africa and have adopted stringent measures to prevent importation of cases into the country," Macharia told journalists in Nairobi.

Macharia said that over 10,000 passengers arriving from west Africa have so far been screened in the country.

Over 1,000 people in the region have so far died from the virus, with many countries choosing to close their borders to prevent continued spread of the virus.

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