WHO: 400 contacts being traced in Congo’s Ebola outbreak

Dr. Hilde Declerck of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is shown with a patient suffering from Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) in Kampungu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in this Oct.1, 2007 file photo. (AFP file photo)
Updated 18 May 2017

WHO: 400 contacts being traced in Congo’s Ebola outbreak

DAKAR, Senegal: Health workers are monitoring more than 400 people amid an Ebola outbreak in a remote corner of Congo where already three deaths have been blamed on the virus, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
An experimental vaccine has been developed since the West African epidemic in 2014-2016 that left more than 11,000 people dead, but WHO said it is still awaiting permission from the Congolese government to use it.
The Ebola outbreak in the far north near the border with Central African Republic is the eighth in Congo since 1976. Congo has a long track record with the hemorrhagic fever, WHO said.
“However, we cannot underestimate the logistical and practical challenges associated with this response in a very remote, insecure part of the country,” said Dr. Peter Salama, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program.
“We’ve also learned never, ever to underestimate the Ebola virus disease.”
Authorities believe three deaths are linked to the outbreak: a 39-year-old man who died before he could reach a hospital, the motorcyclist transporting him and a caregiver traveling with them.
So far just two cases have been confirmed by laboratory testing. There are 18 other suspected cases.
The outbreak in Likati is some 1,400 km from Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. Helicopters and small aircraft are carrying teams to the remote area, where they are setting up a mobile testing laboratory and making improvements to the local airstrip.
Because the Ebola vaccine is still considered experimental, Congo’s government must give special permission for it to be used. WHO is still awaiting such confirmation, at which point it could take about a week to ship the vaccines to Congo and have teams ready to carry it out.


Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

Updated 18 October 2019

Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

  • President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

COLOMBO: The Palaly Airport, a former military air base, has been turned into Jaffna International Airport, the third gateway to the island.

The new airport was inaugurated by the island’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet ministers also witnessed the ceremony.

The refurbished airport, costing $13.8 million, has a 1,400-meter long runway to facilitate ATR 72 aircraft, which can carry 70 passengers. It will later be expanded to 3,500 meters to handle large passenger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and A321.

Located approximately 16 km north of Jaffna, Palaly was a Sri Lanka Air Force base and a domestic airport. The airport was built by the British Royal Air Force during the WWII.

After independence, Palaly Airport was used as the second international airport of the country for flights to southern India before the civil war began, almost 40 years ago.

President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the upgraded Jaffna International Airport marked a “turning point” in Sri Lankan aviation, which would be “an asset for the entire nation.”

“The airport will deploy regional airliners and be elevated to an Asian travel destination,” the premier said.

“The airport, which is expected to accommodate direct flights between Sri Lanka and India, will contribute toward promoting the tourism industry in the north. This will play an important role in the economic growth and overall development of the country,” he added.  

The service will be made available first for Indian destinations, and later for flights to Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East and some European cities.                                                      

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said Palaly airport was developed into Jaffna International Airport in a very short period of time.

“We were able to overcome the challenge successfully due to the sincere assistance we received from all institutes and stakeholders contributed to the development,” he said.

The minister said that in addition to Colombo and Jaffna international airports, three more airports in Sri Lanka will be upgraded to international airports, such as Ratmalana and Batticaloa.

“The opening of Jaffna airport for regional scheduled commercial passenger operations will undoubtedly enhance the quality of life of people in the area, with improved connectivity and accessibility that the airport brings to the region. It would also help reduce the current congestion at Bandaranaike International Airport and also eliminate the difficulties of the people in the north have in coming to Colombo Airport,” said H. M. C.Nimalsiri, director general of civil aviation.