DHS Announces New Restrictions for Travelers from Ebola Affected Region
Travelers with flights originating in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea will be required to fly through one of five U.S. airports where they will receive enhanced screening for Ebola, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement announcing the new mandate Tuesday morning.
Effective tomorrow, travelers with flights originating in the three countries will have to fly through New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, Jackson Atlanta International Airport, or Chicago O'Hare International Airport. At these airports, they will receive secondary screenings, including having their temperature taken, before they can be admitted to the United States. Fever is one symptom of the disease and can indicate that a person could be infectious.
These five airports already accounted for 94 percent of travelers from these countries who fly into the United States, but DHS is now mandating that all travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea go through them before flying elsewhere in the United States. Currently, there are no direct flights from the region into the United States.
"We are working closely with the airlines to implement these restrictions with minimal travel disruption," DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement. "If not already handled by the airlines, the few impacted travelers should contact the airlines for rebooking, as needed."
DHS has also put in place measures to identify and screen anyone at all land, sea, and air ports of entry into the country who it has reason to believe may have been present in Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea in the past 21 days.
Johnson also said that DHS is continuing to evaluate whether additional restrictions or added screenings are necessary "to protect the American people," and will be implemented if needed.
President Barack Obama is still opposed to a complete travel ban from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a briefing Tuesday afternoon. This is because the president believes that a travel ban would "put the American people at greater" risk as individuals would go underground in an attempt to conceal their travel history and enter the United States, Earnest explained.
Instead, the restrictions put forth by DHS are preferable as travelers can be subjected to intensive screening prior to boarding flights in West Africa and receive additional screening after arriving in the United States. Giving individuals an incentive to conceal their travel history only puts the American public at risk because border patrol officials cannot determine who should receive screening, Earnest said.