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Japan orders travelers from Ebola nations to report twice daily

Kyodo, Staff Report

Health minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Tuesday travelers arriving from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone are now required to report their health condition to officials twice daily for three weeks, regardless of whether they have had known contact with Ebola patients.

The move comes amid growing fears of a global Ebola pandemic. Japan’s response so far includes the introduction of a bill in the Diet that would give local governments greater power to require patients with an infectious disease to submit samples for testing for Ebola.

Shiozaki said the quarantine requirement for travelers will last 21 days.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is also conducting simulations on how it would secure suspected Ebola patients and transport them to designated medical institutions safely.

Defense Minister Akinori Eto said his ministry will dispatch a Self-Defense Forces liaison officer to the U.S. Africa Command, headquartered in Germany, to enhance bilateral cooperation on the crisis.

“The primary purpose will be to gather information,” Eto said, adding that the posting is expected to be a long one.

The decision followed a teleconference last week between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama, in which they agreed their nations will keep in close contact on the issue, Eto said.

The officer will monitor the latest data on Ebola from West Africa and will report on the U.S. response, the ministry said.

Four other officials, including three SDF personnel, will be sent to the U.S. command on a short-term basis.

As for the possibility of sending an SDF unit to West Africa, Eto said nothing has been decided yet.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet on Tuesday approved an extension of the SDF mission in South Sudan, where troops are taking part in U.N. peacekeeping operations. Troops were due to return in October but will now remain in place until the end of February.

About 400 SDF engineering specialists are currently stationed in the South Sudanese capital, Juba.

An Ebola outbreak is underway in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

In Japan, public fears are spreading. The Nikaho city office in Akita Prefecture said it has suspended a planned junior high school trip to Oklahoma because of Ebola virus infections in the U.S.

The group of 14 students had planned to visit Shawnee, Oklahoma, from Tuesday to Oct. 28 for homestays in Nikaho’s sister city.

They were also scheduled to stay in Dallas, where Ebola virus infections have been confirmed.

A nurse at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas contracted the disease, the first such case of Ebola in the U.S., after treating a Liberian man who later died of the disease. Another nurse at the same hospital has since also been found to be infected with Ebola.

If safety is confirmed, the city will reconsider the trip to Oklahoma.

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