Canada said Friday it would stop processing visa applications from people who have been in Ebola-affected countries in the three months before they applied, in a move it said was required to protect the health and safety of Canadians, The Wall Street Journal reported. The notice was issued by Canada's Immigration Department. It said the decision was made because the spread of the Ebola virus would pose "an imminent and severe risk" to public health.
In a statement released later on Friday, Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said the ban on visas was a "precautionary measure" in the best interests of Canadians. The statement added that Mr. Alexander has the discretionary power to grant entry from Ebola-affected countries on an "exceptional" basis, where travel is deemed essential and in Canada's interest.
Canadians now in West Africa, including health-care workers, will be permitted to return to Canada, the government said.
The policy takes effect immediately and pertains to people who have been in an Ebola-affected country as identified by the World Health Organization.
Earlier this week, Australia temporarily refused to issue visas to anyone from West African countries at the heart of the Ebola outbreak-Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
There have been nearly 5,000 deaths attributed to the Ebola virus, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there are about 13,700 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus.