UN envoy says flight bans hindering ‘war’ on Ebola
Health workers, dressed in head-to-toe "Ebola suits", leaving in a pick-up truck - AFP/Florence Panoussian

FREETOWN: The U.N.’s new pointman on Ebola said Monday the fight against the epidemic was a “war” which could take another six months, and warned that airlines boycotting the region were hampering the response.

David Nabarro, a British physician the United Nations has appointed to coordinate the global response to the crisis, was in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown for the fifth day of a tour of the region.

“The effort to defeat Ebola is not a battle but a war which requires everybody working together, hard and effectively,” he told a news conference.

“I hope it will be done in six months but we have to do it until it is completed.”

Nabarro said airlines halting flights to and from the countries that have been afflicted by the outbreak in west Africa were making the U.N.’s efforts “a whole lot harder.”

“By isolating the country, it makes it difficult for the U.N. to do its work,” he said.

Instead, he issued a “really strong request to everyone to help us find a way to continue having airlines fly into these capitals so that we can do our job properly”.

“Help us to know how we can do this and at the same time assure you that you are not exposed to risk,” he added.

U.N. officials have pledged to step up efforts against the lethal tropical virus, which has infected more than 2,600 and killed 1,427 in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria this year.

Almost all airlines running services to and from the three hardest-hit nations’ capital cities have announced a temporary suspension until the epidemic is brought under control.

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