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Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak

19 August 2014

19 августа 2014

Press Release

Governments and health officials around the world continue to take steps to fight and contain the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak. The Ebola virus has thus far killed more than 1000 people and, due to the interlinked global travel and trade system, has the potential to spread beyond West and Central Africa – a region where the disease has so far mainly been detected. This was recently also acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee on Ebola, which had its first meeting from 6 to 7 August 2014. According to the Committee, the EVD outbreak has met the conditions for a WHO Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)[1].

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has been closely monitoring recent developments regarding the current EVD outbreak. Following the meeting of the Emergency Committee, the WCO has been liaising with the WHO to ensure WCO Members with public health and safety responsibilities are properly informed about the situation and are involved in national response strategies.

At the level of borders, many WCO Members play an important role in national response strategies to mitigate EVD-types of public health and safety risks. Customs administrations are often countries’ “first and last lines of defence”, and Customs officers are among the first government authorities to meet travellers and crew members on board arriving vessels, aircraft, and other types of transport. In this context, it is of utmost importance that Customs administrations with health and safety responsibilities are adequately integrated as part of the response mechanisms and know, for example, about the precautionary and preventative measures to deal with potential high-risk situations at the border.

The WCO will keep a close watch on the EVD outbreak and is monitoring the latest border-related developments in this regard. The WCO Secretary General, Dr. Kunio Mikuriya, recently wrote to WHO Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan, pledging the WCO’s support to global efforts to contain this deadly disease. “This type of global health and safety risks can have devastating effects on human well-being”, stated Secretary General Mikuriya. “In addition to the direct effects on the affected people and communities, the indirect potential effects on global trade and travel can be considerable. The WCO is ready to support the WHO and its international efforts to eradicate the EVD and to prevent the spread of the disease.”

The WCO will establish a special section on its website dedicated to the EVD. It will include useful Customs-related information and links regarding the virus, including latest updates on the outbreak.

[1] The term “public health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC) is defined in the International Health Regulations as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response”. This definition implies a situation that is: i) serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected; ii) carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and iii) may require immediate international action.