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Passengers arriving in the U.S. from three West African nations with an outbreak of Ebola will be directed to enter through the five airports where federal agents are conducting enhanced health screenings.
The few travelers who don’t already connect through Atlanta, Chicago, Newark, New York and Washington will be forced to take flights that stop in those cities, according to a Department of Homeland Security statement today. The new procedures become effective tomorrow.
“We currently have in place measures to identify and screen anyone at all land, sea and air ports of entry into the United States who we have reason to believe has been present in Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea in the preceding 21 days,” Jeh Johnson, the DHS secretary, said in the statement.
The requirements probably affect fewer than 10 people out of an estimated 150 who arrive from the three African nations daily, according to government statistics. Some lawmakers have called for a ban on travelers from those nations, a move that President Barack Obama has said would be counterproductive.
The administration is trying to quell criticism of its handling of the deadly virus, which entered the U.S. last month when a Liberian man flew to Dallas and became the first person diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. Thomas Eric Duncan was treated at a Dallas hospital until his death Oct. 8.
After two health-care workers involved in Duncan’s case contracted Ebola, lawmakers have urged more aggressive action by U.S. border agents.
About 150 passengers travel from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone to the U.S. daily, less than 0.1 percent of total international passengers. Of those, 94 percent arrive at the five airports where agents are checking for fever and questioning people about possible contacts with Ebola patients.
The five international airports are: John F. Kennedy in New York, Washington Dulles, Newark Liberty, Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta Hartsfield.
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