U.S. Customs Border Protection / Reuters

US limits travel from Ebola-hit countries to 'enhanced screening' airports

All passengers originating from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea must land at one of five hubs

The United States has unveiled new Ebola-related travel restrictions on visitors from West Africa, forcing passengers originating from the three worst hit countries to land at select airports for enhanced screening.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the move Tuesday, and will mean those wishing to come to America from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea will have to arrive either at New York's Kennedy, Newark Liberty, Washington's Dulles, Chicago's O'Hare or Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airports.

Earlier this month, the transportation hubs began screening people arriving from at-risk nations. The new measures include using no-touch thermometers to determine if a traveler has a high temperature — one symptom of a possible Ebola infection.

There are no direct flights to the U.S. from West Africa. And of the roughly 150 people traveling daily from West Africa to America, 94 percent already arrive at one of the five airports listed. But Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Jeh Johnson confirmed Tuesday that now everyone traveling from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea will have to land at one of the five designated hubs if they are to be allowed into the U.S.

The new requirement means that people traveling from the region who were not originally passing through one of the five airports will have to rebook their flights.

Johnson said DHS now has "measures to identify and screen anyone at all land, sea and air ports of entry into the United States who we have reason to believe has been present in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the preceding 21 days."

Concerns about travelers infected with Ebola have risen since a Liberian man traveled from the region to Dallas last month. Thomas Eric Duncan became the first person in the United States diagnosed with Ebola, a few days after arriving from West Africa. He died on Oct. 8.

Since then, two nurses who helped care for Duncan have also been diagnosed with Ebola.

Some members of Congress have urged President Barack Obama to ban all travel from West Africa. Tuesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., praised the expansion of airport screening but again urged Obama to halt all travel from the region.

"President Obama has a real solution at his disposal under current law and can use it at any time to temporarily ban foreign nationals from entering the United States from Ebola-ravaged countries," Goodlatte said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described the move as an "added layer of protection against Ebola entering our country."

Spanish nurse Ebola free

In Madrid, meanwhile, conclusive tests show a Spanish nursing assistant infected with Ebola has been cured of the virus, doctors said Tuesday, signaling a huge step forward in her 15-day battle for survival.

Four blood tests over the past four days indicated Teresa Romero's system had eliminated the virus, said Dr. Jose Ramon Arribas of Madrid's Carlos III hospital.

He added that Romero will no longer have to be kept in isolation but will be closely monitored for after effects of the virus.

Romero, 44, tested positive Oct. 6. She received plasma from a recovered Ebola patient, but health authorities have disclosed no more treatment details.

"She's recovering well, her spirits are high," said Teresa Mesa, a spokewoman for the Romero family. "She's not wearing an oxygen mask anymore. She's eating. The recovery is going great."

Romero was the first known person to contract the disease outside of West Africa in the latest outbreak. She had treated two Spanish missionaries who died of Ebola at the hospital in August and September after they were flown back from West Africa.

Al Jazeera and wire services


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