People from Ebola-stricken countries will sneak into the United States if the federal government doesn’t let them openly travel to the country, says White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
A travel ban “would provide a direct incentive for individuals seeking to travel to the United States to go underground and to seek to evade this [airport] screening and to not be candid about their travel history in order to enter the country,” he said.
“That means it would be much harder for us to keep tabs on these individuals” once they in the country, he said .
But Earnest also admitted that the current policy will likely lead to the arrival of more infected travelers. “It certainly is possible that other individuals will travel to this country,” and be let in because they’re not showing symptoms, Earnest said.
Foreigners who arrive while carrying the disease will be treated in U.S. hospitals, Earnest suggested.
A growing number of GOP and Democratic legislators and candidates are calling for a President Barack Obama to impose a travel ban on people arriving form Ebola-afflicted countries. An early October poll showed that roughly 67 percent of Americans favor a travel ban.
On Sept. 20, an apparently healthy Liberian who was infected by Ebola passed through a screening at a Liberian airport and them walked through U.S. customs. He subsequently passed the disease to two American nurses in Dallas, and forced U.S. health officials to track more than 200 Americans for possible infections.
The Liberian did not tell customs officials that he had recently carried a women dying from Ebola. The disease is easily transmitted by close contact with dying Ebola patients.
“Some additional case of Ebola will occur,” maybe from the first Liberian victims in Dallas, Earnest admitted.
A travel ban would also reduce needed commercial flights into Liberia, Earnest insisted. “We want to keep those lines of transportation open,” he said, adding that “a relatively small number, about 150 per day,” of travelers arrive in the United States from diseased countries.
U.S. aid workers and supplies are already being flown into Liberia by U.S. military aircraft.
A growing number of countries have reduced or blocked air travel with Ebola-stricken countries.