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A nurse holding a fever thermometer
Image: Sia Kambou/AFP/Getty Images

Keeping Ebola out of Equatorial Guinea

Linda Staude / ck
January 16, 2015

Morocco was too scared of Ebola. Equatorial Guinea seized the opportunity and offered to host the Africa Cup of Nations in its place. Authorities in Malabo are confident that they can keep the virus at bay.


All passengers arriving at Malabo International Airport are stopped by Maria Reyes Santos. The young nurse in white protective clothing points a thermal camera at each new arrival from abroad. She says body temperature measured should not be above 38 degrees Celsius (100.40 Fahrenheit). "We check if anyone is running a fever."

Equatorial Guinea introduced screenings several months ago. According to Ambassador Mari Cruz Evuna Andeme, this worked very well in June last year when Malabo hosted the African Union (AU) summit. Now, on the eve of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), she says the government has doubled its efforts to keep the Ebola virus out of the country. "We have more tents, more personnel like nurses stationed at airports, and we have checkpoints to ensure that everyone is screened before entering the country," she said.

'The perfect choice'

Evuna Andeme said authorities were confident that they would be able to prevent Ebola from getting into the country, because Equatorial Guinea has not had a single case of the disease since the start of the present epidemic. "I don’t think this will change in the future," the ambassador said.

A map with the flag of Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea seized the chance to host the tournament after Morocco withdrewImage: picture alliance/ANP

The surge of the virus, which so far has cost 8,000 lives in West Africa, disrupted the plans of the African Football Confederation (CAF) for the tournament. Two months before the planned start, Morocco announced that it would not host it after all. Possible alternative hosts, like Sudan and South Africa, also opted out. Sports journalist Emeka Enyadike says that Equatorial Guinea was one of the few countries willing and able to take over. "This is a prestige event in Africa. It needs lots of preparation," Enyadike said. In his view, "Equatorial Guinea was the perfect choice."

Considerable revenues

Qatar was also willing to host the event. But this would be akin to transferring the European Champions League to Gabun, says Enyadike’s colleague Yves Oyono. "Imagine the scandal!"

Officials at CAF thus decided to stick to the original schedule and go ahead with the tournament - one reason being the considerable revenue resulting from broadcasting rights. CAF spokesman Junior Binyam says there are no fears that Ebola could disrupt the event. "Qualification matches have been taking place since April last year, and we did not have a single case of Ebola that had anything to do with football."

No exceptions

Guinea’s team is the only participant from a country where Ebola is still a problem. But everybody will have to submit to thorough checks, as the Cape Verde team found out when they arrived in Malabo on January 13. The head of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, says there is no reason to stigmatize anyone. "If we start doing it ourselves, soon the whole of Africa will be stigmatized somewhere else,” she warns.

The draw for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations
Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema (center) and CAF President Issa Hayatou (2nd right) at the 2015 African Cup of Nations drawImage: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

This is why every single passenger, no matter where he or she is coming from, will have to submit to a check at the airport. However, it is doubtful whether many fans will travel to Equatorial Guinea for the tournament. Not so much out of fear of Ebola, but because hotel rooms are scarce and visas are expensive, not to mention very hard to come by.

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