Ghanaians wanting to visit the United Kingdom (UK) for six months or more will have to undergo compulsory tuberculosis (TB) screening prior to being issued with a visa, the British immigration authorities have announced. Under the new system long-term visa applicants will have to supply a certificate from an accredited clinic attesting that they do not carry active TB; those who do will automatically be denied entry to the UK but they can re-apply after six months and as long as they are then TB negative. The screening is being made compulsory only for applicants for a visa for six months or more since TB is transmitted through close contact with an infected person over a long period of time and it is thought that short-term visitors with TB are less likely to pass on the disease.
With 44,733 new cases of TB in 2004, Ghana ranks 13th in Africa for the highest estimated number of new cases per year, according to a 2006 World Health Organisation report. Poor health services and lack of access to antibiotics result in around 10,000 deaths each year from the curable disease.
The new rules are part of a broader programme that already sees compulsory TB testing for long-term UK visa applicants from Bangladesh, Sudan, Tanzania and Thailand and which is also to be extended to China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Currently migrants from countries with TB incidence are tested for the infectious disease on arriving in the UK. It is not clear when the new procedure will come into effect.