OTTAWA, November 1 -- Visa applications from worst-affected nations suspended in move slammed as ineffective and disheartening by critics.
Canada has suspended visa applications for residents and nationals of countries with "widespread transmission" of the Ebola virus, becoming the second nation after Australia to introduce such a measure. The countries most severely hit by the worst Ebola outbreak ever are Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Canada has not yet had a case of the disease.
The similar move by Australia was slammed on Wednesday by Dr Margaret Chan, the World Health Organisation's director general, who said closing borders won't stop spread of the Ebola virus. Canadians, including healthcare workers, in West Africa will be permitted to travel back to Canada, the government said.
Kevin Menard, a spokesman for Canada's immigration ministry, said the government has "instituted a pause" in issuing visas for foreigners from risky countries, but noted "there was room for discretion if we can be assured that someone is not infected with the virus," according to the Associated Press news agency.
Nancy Caron, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said that "a number of African countries have imposed stricter travel bans as have several other countries around the world. Other countries such as the United States have started to place restrictions on travelers from countries with Ebola outbreaks".
The government also noted that all travelers, including Canadian citizens, will continue to be screened at ports of entry in Canada and will be subject to appropriate health screening. Menard said the move is similar to, but a bit less restrictive than, the Australian measure.
Stephane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said the body welcomed Canada's support in fighting the Ebola outbreak but advocated "against isolating the three most impacted countries and stigmatising its citizens".