Source: B&FT - The Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has moved to strengthen its epidemic response system in view of the increasing incidence of communicable diseases that pose a threat to air transport.
The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa last year and the recent cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) have challenged public health officials and aviation professionals to strengthen existing response systems.
Port health authorities at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) installed temperature monitors to screen travellers from Ebola-affected countries in the height of the epidemic, but this has now been extended to other passengers arriving from around the world.
Ghana has also signed up to the Collaborative Arrangement for the Prevention and Management of Public Health Events in Civil Aviation (CAPSCA) Programme, a global effort to strengthen public health systems around the world.
Michiel Vreedenburgh, the CAPSCA Programme Global Coordinator said: “Ghana is a member of CAPSCA, which is run by ICAO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) and is to provide advice and assistance to member-states.
“Ghana invited us to come here and evaluate the preparedness plans that exist within the aviation sector in case of public health events. We are to provide information on the subject matter and conduct a gap-analysis of what is available in the aviation sector, specifically at the airport, and after that we will be able to provide some advice and assistance to improve those plans.”
Mr. Martey Boye Atoklo, Deputy Director General (Technical) of the GACC said: “There was negative economic impact on aircraft operations; airlines had to stop their operations into countries affected by these public health events. Today, the MERS epidemic is also raging.
“Therefore, this collaborative-visit arrangement for the prevention and management of public health events in civil aviation project assistance to Ghana is welcome news for the GCAA and the country. As a state whose aviation industry is rapidly developing and expanding, it’s important that we tap the benefits that these audits present,” he said.
Dr. Gloria Quansah Asare of the Ghana Health Service/Ministry of Health said: “Recent global public health events have had a direct bearing on the aviation sector, and it is only right that Ghana takes steps to ensure public health security is not compromised.
“The Ebola Virus Disease and respiratory illness continue to pose real and imminent threats. The risk of further transmission or spread to other countries by the travelling public becomes a great concern. With most international travel done through air-travel, the aviation sector bears the brunt.”
Coordinating the international aviation response to public health risks, such as pandemics, is a key role for the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
By means of CAPSCA international, regional, national and local organisations are brought together to combine efforts and develop a coordinated approach.
The programme aims to provide assistance for States/Territories to establish national aviation pandemic preparedness plans; adherence to Article 14 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation; compliance with WHO IHR (2005) regulations; and implementation of ICAO, WHO, and IATA guidelines.
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