Canada halts visas for residents of Ebola-hit nations

A sign urges pedestrians not to walk over a rail bridge connecting the US with Canada on June 4, 2013 (AFP Photo/John Moore)

Ottawa (AFP) - Canada on Friday announced it was suspending visa applications for residents of Ebola-hit nations in a bid to prevent the deadly virus from crossing its borders.

Immigration Canada said authorities would not process any visa applications from individuals who had been in an Ebola-affected nation "within three months prior to the date of the application."

"Canada has been a leader in the international efforts to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa," said Chris Alexander, Canada's immigration minister.

"The precautionary measures announced today build on actions we have taken to protect the health and safety of Canadians here at home."

A statement said immigration authorities would also not issue new visa applications or process existing applications from foreign nationals intending to travel to an Ebola-affected nation.

The rule did not affect applications for visa renewals of foreign nationals who are already in Canada, the statement said.

Although Canada has had several alerts for possible Ebola cases, the country has yet to record its first confirmed incidence of the disease.

"Our number one priority is to protect Canadians," Canadian health minister Rona Ambrose said in a statement.

"We continue to work with domestic and international partners to aid efforts to respond to the outbreak in West Africa, while strengthening our domestic preparedness here at home."

The World Health Organization said Friday that Ebola had infected a total of 13,567 people so far, claiming 4,951 lives, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.