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Football: Sierra Leone refused entry to Seychelles over Ebola virus fears

updated 6:33 AM EDT, Sat August 2, 2014
The Sierra Leone football team line up before a World Cup qualifying match against Tunisia in June 2013.
The Sierra Leone football team line up before a World Cup qualifying match against Tunisia in June 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sierra Leone football players prevented from entering Seychelles over Ebola fears
  • Seychelles forfeits African Cup of Nations qualifier as a result
  • Ebola has claimed at least 224 lives in Sierra Leone in recent months

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(CNN) -- Concern over the spread of the Ebola virus has caused the cancellation of an African Cup of Nations football match.

The Seychelles was due to host Sierra Leone in a qualifying game on Saturday, but the tiny island nation's ministries of health and immigration prevented the visiting players from entering the country.

At least 525 cases of Ebola have been reported in Sierra Leone since March, 224 of which have been fatal.

Seychelles, which was trailing 2-0 after losing the away leg of the second-round qualifier in Sierra Leone on July 19, has forfeited both the tie and its hopes of reaching next year's tournament finals.

Sierra Leone players were on Friday reportedly prevented from boarding a plane at Kenya's Nairobi Airport that would have taken them to the Seychelles.

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Seychelles Football Federation president Elvis Chetty told CNN that there was little choice but to follow government advice and forfeit the match, which was to be held in the capital Victoria.

"After being advised by the ministry of health to postpone the match for an indefinite period, the ministry of immigration informed us it would not allow the team from Sierra Leone to enter the Seychelles," Chetty said.

"Subsequently, the SFF felt it was prudent to forfeit the scheduled match as opposed to asking for a postponement.

"We respect the decisions taken by the authorities to safeguard the health interests of our country.

"Our thoughts are with the Sierra Leone people in their hour of need."

There have been more than 1,300 confirmed or suspected Ebola cases in West Africa since March, when cases of the virus were first reported in Guinea.

Other countries to be affected include Liberia and Nigeria.

Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma has declared a public health emergency in his country in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

One of the country's athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland was taken to hospital last week to be tested for Ebola after feeling unwell.

However, cyclist Moses Sesay was cleared and was able to compete in Thursday's men's individual time trial.

Ebola is a viral hemorrhagic fever, affecting multiple organs and accompanied by bleeding. There is no known cure or specific treatments.

The World Health Organization has said that drastic action is needed to contain what has fast become the worst outbreak on record.

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