A university in South Korea has “politely withdrawn” invitations for three Nigerian students to attend a conference. Also canceled were trips by medical volunteers to West Africa, stricken by the Ebola virus, which has claimed over 700 lives since March.
The Duksung Women's University in the capital, Seoul, said that it had "politely withdrawn" its invitation for three students from Nigeria to visit the country for an international conference.
The World Congress of Global Partnership for Young Women is due to begin on Monday, August 4 and last till August 15. The event will be hosted in conjunction with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
"The school announced that it canceled all invitations issued to three students from Nigeria. Also, students from countries in other parts of Africa will have to undergo additional health inspections before participating in the event," the student president of Duksung told the Korea Times.
The fear of a possible spread of the virus in South Korea prompted one student from the university to issue a plea on the official website of the country’s presidential office demanding the authorities cancel the conference.
Since Saturday over 15,000 people signed an online petition against the "dangerous" invitations.
"The invited students will stay in the school dormitories for about 10 days," a Duksung student noted on the school's online bulletin board. "Many students who applied for voluntary work for the event have canceled it and are now protesting against it."
However, the university said it won’t annul the event which will be attended by students. Twenty-eight of them will be from Africa.
"Since it is a cooperative event with the UN Women, we cannot cancel the invitations of all students from Africa or the whole conference," said an official from the university. "We are in talks with Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about how to deal with the potential problem."
On Monday, South Korean authorities advised against traveling to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the countries mostly affected by the virus as the outbreak represents a potential risk to travelers.
Meanwhile, a group of South Korean medical volunteer workers abandoned their annual journey to African countries. The trip was scheduled in August and included such countries as Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana.
Korean bloggers have been recently posting online petitions fearing the spread of Ebola virus. Some of them called the authorities to bar South Korean missionaries and aid workers who work in West Africa from returning home.
The government is holding an emergency meeting on Monday devoted to the deadly virus, the prime minister’s office said, as cited by Yonhap.
“The government set up a counter-Ebola team in April and has since intensified monitoring on the local and overseas outbreak of Ebola," the Prime Minister's Office said. "Guidelines have been sent to epidemic authorities across the country to track down and study suspected Ebola patients as part of efforts to effectively prepare for the possibility of the entry of the virus."
According to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), the latest Ebola outbreak has infected at least 1,323 people and killed at least 729.
The mortality rate for Ebola can be as high as 90 percent, depending on the strain, although the latest outbreak has a mortality rate of 60 percent. The symptoms include acute fever, bleeding and damage to the central nervous system.
One of the two infected US aid workers who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia arrived at a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, to be treated in a special unit. On Sunday health officials said his condition was improving.
South Korea is not the only country to advise its citizens not to travel to West Africa. US health authorities also advise against traveling to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
On Thursday a Sierra Leone cyclist was tested for Ebola after he felt sick at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. But after four days of examination, the tests came back negative, said the spokesman for the games.
"We can confirm an athlete was tested for a number of things when he fell ill last week, including Ebola. The tests were negative and the athlete competed in his event on Thursday," he added.