Quarantine Act Amended


By Mellica McPherson

As the deadly Ebola virus ravages many West Africa regions, Legislators in the Territory passed a law in the House of Assembly last week,Thursday, that will step up port surveillance, and limit or – better yet – prevent the entry of communicable diseases.

The Quarantine Amendment Act 2013, which was passed with amendment on 14 August, outlines the procedure and process for screening, detecting and dealing with infected persons.

In piloting the Bill, Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon. Ronnie Skelton mentioned the Ebola catastrophe in Africa and announced that the legislation is timely. Hon. Skelton said: “All of us in this House today recognize that there is a serious concern (with) Ebola travelling around the globe. While we are way behind the eight ball on the implementation of this piece of legislation, it brings to the forefront the importance of having the relevant systems and technology at the port of entry. (So) that we can stop most of these diseases from entering our Territory; and if they do enter we have a way of dealing with these diseases.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the current Ebola virus outbreak allegedly begun in Guinea in December 2013, and later expanded to Liberia, Sierra Leone and recently Nigeria. As a result of the spread of the virus the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 8 August 2014.

Hon. Skelton said: “None of us here now want to go to West Africa. I don’t think any of us now want to get on the plane now and go to West Africa because we are scared. The same with travellers, travellers don’t want to come to a place where there is any communicable disease.”

Premier, Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith in his contribution to the debate spoke about Ebola as well and noted that that the legislation was needed: “Now the Minister for Health spoke about the Ebola virus, this again is something that is threatening more than just the individual, and here again a measure of quarantine has to be put in place,” the BVI Leader said.

At Large Representative, Hon. Archibald Christian said that it was reported that the Ebola virus terribly affects the immune system of its victims and he announced that scientists are striving to find a cure. In the meantime, it is good that the Territory has passed the Quarantine legislation: “Madame Speaker I think most of us have heard about the spread of the Ebola virus and so I think that this piece of legislation is very timely…”

“The World Health Organization and a number of other regional bodies have issued statements regarding the program and plans they have to implement in order to minimise or reduce the spread of the virus to these various parts of the world. We here today are continuing to implement procedures to minimize the spread throughout the population… Scientists are franticly working to find a cure to this virus,” Hon. Christian added.

The casualties in Africa are now exceeding 1,200, and WHO recently stated that the epidemic will get worse before they are able to get it under control.