Canada has joined Australia in suspending entry visas for people from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa in an attempt to keep out the disease.
The Canadian government said Friday it is suspending visa applications for residents and nationals of countries identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having "widespread and persistent-intense transmission" of the Ebola virus.
Currently that means Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — the countries hit hardest by the latest and worst-ever Ebola outbreak — would be affected by the visa suspension.
A similar move by Australia earlier this week was slammed Thursday WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, who said closing borders would not stop the spread of the virus.
Canada's Department of Citizenship and Immigration, explaining the move, said in an official document that "the introduction or spread of the disease would pose an imminent and severe risk to public health in Canada."
The Ebola epidemic has killed 4,951 people out of 13,567 infected in eight countries, the WHO said Friday.
Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone account for the bulk of infections of the deadly hemorrhagic fever, but there have been sporadic cases in Nigeria and Senegal — both now declared Ebola-free — as well as Spain, the United States and Mali.
A 2-year-old girl who brought Ebola to Mali may have had contact with up to 141 people, 57 of whom have yet to be traced, according to experts from the WHO and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of whom are concerned it could spread in Mali and beyond.
Liberia, the worst-hit country, may be seeing a decline in the spread of the virus — though the battle to contain the outbreak is far from won, the WHO said Wednesday.
All 83 contacts of a health care worker in Spain infected with Ebola have completed a first 21-day incubation period for the virus, but a second one must follow before the country can be declared free of the disease, the WHO said on Friday. The nurse treated two Spanish priests who were repatriated from Liberia and Sierra Leone and later died.