Africa’s ‘Switzerland’ Bans Ebola – But at What Cost?
Most African nations have responded to their Ebola-affected neighbors by canceling flights and closing borders. The logic driving this isolationism has little to do with advice from the World Health Organization. WHO pleads that travel bans slow the delivery of medical supplies to fight the virus while doing nothing to stop its spread, and that properly screening airline passengers when they disembark is enough of a precaution.
The tiny island nation of Mauritius is the latest to join the NIMBY chorus; its Prime Minister has ordered that all foreign nationals be refused entry if they have stepped foot in an Ebola-affected country any time in the past two months. The maximum known incubation period for the virus is just 3 weeks.
Given the magnitude of the health challenge, it may not seem very important that a little African island half the size of Rhode Island has overreacted to a single case that was thought to be Ebola but in fact was not. (The feverish patient who caused the scare turned out to have contracted malaria.) But Mauritius is not only one of Africa’s smallest countries, it’s one of the wealthiest, nicknamed the “Switzerland of Africa” not only for its verdant hills but also its secretive banking regulations, which provide tax havens for African presidents, Indian contractors and US corporations.