South African stuck in Ebola-hit Sierra Leone

Cape Town – A South African, working and living in Sierra Leone has found himself unable to return home, due to stringent Ebola travel restrictions.

Gerhard van Zyl, a mechanic from Bloemfontein who has been working at a diamond mine next to the Sewa river, shared his frustrations with Volksblad on Thursday, saying that he is unable to return to South Africa, as flights to and from the Ebola-hit nation have been cancelled.

According to Van Zyl, three people have died due to the virus and 200 others have been put in quarantine in Koidu, the town closest to the mine where he works, which means that the miners are pretty much surrounded by the disease.

Apart from his obvious fears, Van Zyl is also worried about the fact that he may not be able to return to South Africa in time for his son’s wedding on 27 September.

SAA recently announced that a new rule has been put into place, requiring any South Africans who want to travel to or from West Africa to request permission from the health department

Should permission be granted, Van Zyl would also probably have to undergo a stringent medical screening process on arrival in the country.

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Van Zyl’s case is, however, not unique, as many foreigners have found themselves stranded in the country.

Times of India recently reported that hundreds of expatriates who wanted to return to India, were unable to leave, due to the fact that most airlines had cancelled their flights to the Liberian capital of Monrovia as well as Sierra Leone’s Freetown.

In the meantime commodity prices have also been rising steadily, adding to the dismal atmosphere.

Foreigners are also not the only ones who feel trapped, as Newsweek reports that many locals, especially those in heavily affected areas, have expressed their resentment at being put under lockdown. 

While placing travel bans on these countries have seemed to make sense to most nations, virologists have warned that these restrictions could actually worsen the epidemic, as they are also putting a limit on medical and food supplies.