GUINEA

Hollande warns against isolating Ebola-hit countries

FRANCE 24 | Screen grab of French President François Hollande speaking at a news conference in Guinea's capital Conakry

French President François Hollande visited Guinea on Friday, where he warned of the possible economic and political dangers of isolating countries afflicted by the Ebola epidemic.

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Hollande’s day-long visit was the first by a Western leader to a country hit hard by the deadly Ebola virus. It is also the first to Guinea by a French president since 1999. The visit was intended as “a message of solidarity” to the country as it battles the worst outbreak of Ebola since the virus was discovered in 1976.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Guinea’s President Alpha Condé, Hollande warned against the possible dangers of isolating Ebola-stricken countries.

“I don’t want countries that have been hit by an epidemic, by a health crisis, to be closed, cut off from the world and thereby hampered developmentally,” he said, while expressing his support for health workers in the country. “This is the risk… that a health crisis could next become an economic crisis, which then in turn becomes a political crisis or a security crisis.”

But Hollande warned that the fight against the disease was not over, urging the public to remain vigilant.

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‘In coming here, I’d like to send three messages…’

Condé described Hollande's visit as symbolic, saying that he hoped it would demonstrate that it was safe for investors to come to Guinea.

“President Hollande’s visit is a major symbol. People are scared when your neighbour says that your dog has rabies. The global panic was created by our neighbours, who closed their borders,” he said. “I hope that [Hollande’s] presence shows that you can’t get Ebola from the air, and I hope that after his visit French businessmen won’t be afraid to come back.”

Hollande also toured an Ebola treatment centre at the main hospital and met with French health workers in Guinea’s capital Conakry during his short visit.

France has pledged 100 million euros as a contribution in the fight against Ebola, focusing its efforts on Guinea.

The money is meant to help finance several care centres in Guinea as well as fund 200 beds, some of which are reserved for health workers caring for the sick.

The former French colony has already lost 1,200 people to the disease, which has claimed the lives of over 5,600 and infected almost 16,000, mainly in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.

Now, nearly a year after the first patient died in a southeastern village of Guinea, at least 25 villages in the country’s forested and mountainous southeast still refuse to allow entry to health workers trying to trace potential cases, several human rights groups say.

France has also pledged to set up two training centres for health workers, one in France and one in Guinea. In addition, French biotechnology companies will set up rapid diagnostic tests in Africa.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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