Statement: Gambia Bird flights suspended

King’s Sierra Leone Partnership Programme Director, Dr. Oliver Johnson, had this to say on the decision by the UK Civil Aviation Authority:

“The decision of the UK Government to withdraw permission for Gambia Bird to operate direct services to Sierra Leone is very disappointing, particularly as it is inconsistent with the current travel advice from both the World Health Organisation and the UK Foreign Office. King’s Health Partners and the other organisations fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone depend on flights from overseas to provide us with vital resources, including both personnel and equipment. The reopening of direct Gambia Bird flights between London and Freetown would provide a much needed route for urgent support. We had an urgent shipment of critical supplies and two volunteers due to arrive on Friday with Gambia Bird that will now be delayed, a tangible example of how this decision will impede the response in West Africa and put UK nationals supporting the response on the ground at greater risk. Whilst it is completely understandable that the UK government is doing everything it can to ensure the country is ready for any potential cases of Ebola, preventing flights from West Africa will not help with this. Regular, direct flights from the affected countries are easier to monitor for potential cases than indirect flights routing through many different airports in Europe. The best way of stopping Ebola arriving in the UK is to tackle it at its source and I would urge the Government to reconsider its decision.”