Thursday 19 October 2017

Ebola screening begins at Heathrow Airport

Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport, West London. Enhanced screening for Ebola will begin at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 1 on tomorrow. Steve Parsons/PA Wire
Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport, West London. Enhanced screening for Ebola will begin at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 1 on tomorrow. Steve Parsons/PA Wire
A Protect Environmental worker wears a hazard suit at the home of a Dallas healthcare worker who tested positive for Ebola (AP)
A member of the CG Environmental HazMat team disinfects the entrance to the residence of a health worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who has contracted Ebola in Dallas, Texas, October 12, 2014
A member of a Texas Environmental HazMat team disinfects the entrance to the home of the Dallas hospital health worker who has contracted Ebola. Photo: REUTERS/Jaime R. Carrero
A member of the CG Environmental HazMat team disinfects the entrance to the residence of a health worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who has contracted Ebola in Dallas, Texas. REUTERS/Jaime R. Carrero

David Mercer

Enhanced screening for Ebola will begin at Britain's biggest airport today after the Health Secretary revealed the deadly virus is expected to reach the UK.

Jeremy Hunt said checks would begin at Heathrow's Terminal 1 before they are expanded to cover Gatwick airport and Eurostar rail terminals by the end of next week, as the death toll in west Africa reached more than 4,000 people.

He told MPs it was "likely" that Ebola will be seen in the UK and a "handful" of cases could be confirmed in the next three months.

Screening and monitoring - including temperature checks and a questionnaire - at Heathrow, Gatwick and the Eurostar should ensure 89% of people travelling to the UK from the affected region on tickets booked directly to the UK are checked, Mr Hunt said.

Read more here: Emergency crews remove passengers from Dubai flight at Boston's Logan Airport

A Heathrow spokesman said "the welfare of our passengers and colleagues is always our main priority".

"We would like to reassure passengers that the Government assesses the risk of a traveller contracting Ebola to be low. We would encourage anybody with individual questions or concerns to refer to guidance from Public Health England and the Foreign Office," he added.

In a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Hunt said: "This Government's first priority is the safety of the British people. Playing our part in halting the rise of the disease in west Africa is the single most important way of preventing Ebola affecting people in the UK.

"Whilst there are no direct flights from the affected region, there are indirect routes into the UK.

"In the next week, Public Health England will start screening and monitoring UK bound air passengers identified by the Border Force coming on to the main routes from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Staff from North East Ambulance Service and the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle take part in a national exercise to test Britain's readiness for an Ebola outbreak. Reuters
Britain is staging a drill to test its readiness to an Ebola outbreak - an exercise is seen here in Hong Kong on 2 September
Soldiers from the 36th Engineer Brigade practice how to put on protective clothing and gloves during a training session at at Fort Hood, Texas
A sign points to the entrance to the emergency room at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, where U.S. Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was being treated
Pfc. Kaiya Capuchino from U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) trains US Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), who are earmarked for the fight against Ebola, before their deployment to West Africa
James Knight and Ondraya Frick from U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) train U.S. Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), who are earmarked for the fight against Ebola, before their deployment to West Africa
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, where US Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan was being treated (AP)
Staff from Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge taking part national exercise to test Britain's readiness for an Ebola outbreak.
High-tech response: Health workers test Britain's response tot he Ebola crisis. The scene is a far cry from what transpires in stricken West African countries. Anne-MarieSanderson/DoH/PA Wire
A placard is hung on a dog during a protest against the killing of Excalibur, the dog of Spanish nurse Teresa Romero who is the first person to contract Ebola outside of Africa, and the handling of the Ebola crisis, in Madrid. Health authorities on Thursday put down the dog, a labrador-type breed, who lived with the nurse and her husband in a suburban Madrid flat, saying it posed a biological risk and there was evidence dogs could carry the virus. The text on the placard reads, "Excalibur, we won't forget nor forgive" (REUTERS/Andrea Comas)
A new treatment centre is being constructed in Monrovia, Liberia to cope with the Ebola outbreak
US army soldiers earmarked for the fight against Ebola train before their deployment to West Africa. Photo: Reuters
Workers wearing protective clothing at the apartment building of a Spanish nurse infected with Ebola in Madrid. (AP)
Thomas Eric Duncan has been kept in isolation at a hospital since Sunday. AP Photo

"This will allow potential Ebola virus carriers arriving in the UK to be identified, tracked and given rapid access to expert health advice should they develop symptoms."

He said the measures will start at Heathrow Terminal 1, which receives around 85% of all such arrivals across the whole of the airport.

"They'll be expanded by the end of next week to other terminals at Heathrow and Gatwick and on the Eurostar which connects to Paris and Brussels bound arrivals from west Africa."

Grave diggers prepare for new Ebola victims outside an Ebola treatment center near Gbarnga, in Bong County in central Liberia. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa
Grave diggers prepare for new Ebola victims outside an Ebola treatment center near Gbarnga, in Bong County in central Liberia. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa
A grave digger prepares a new grave outside an Ebola treatment center near Gbarnga, in Bong County in central Liberia. The Ebola epidemic has killed more than 3,400 people in West Africa
Health workers in Freetown, Sierra Leone. (AP)
Health workers attend a protest outside La Paz Hospital calling for Spain's Health Minister Ana Mato to resign after a Spanish nurse contracted Ebola, in Madrid, October 7, 2014.
Ebola virus discoverer Peter Piot addresses a news conference at the United Nations after an informal consultation at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. Reuters/Denis Balibouse
Health workers load Spanish Ebola patient
A Spanish health worker looks at Ebola patient
British Ebola survivor William Pooley (L) talks with Sierra Leone's High Commissioner to Britain Edward Turay (C) and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond during the "Defeating Ebola: Sierra Leone" conference in London. Reuters
Health workers load Spanish Ebola patient, Catholic priest Manuel Garcia Viejo, into an ambulance on the tarmac of Torrejon airbase after he was repatriated from Sierra Leone for treatment in Spain. Reuters
A burial team wearing protective clothing, prepare to enter the home of a person suspected of having died of the Ebola virus, in Freetown September. The U.N. mission to combat Ebola wants to see significant progress in fighting the deadly disease with 60 days, including ensuring that 70 percent of cases receive treatment, its new head said on Tuesday. At least 3,091 people have died from Ebola since the West African outbreak was first reported in the remote southeast forest region of Guinea in March. The other two most affected countries are Sierra Leone and Liberia. REUTERS/Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via Reuters
A nine-year-old girl is taken to an ambulance after showing signs of the Ebola infection in Liberia. (AP)

Mr Hunt said current advice suggested there will be fewer than 10 cases of Ebola in the UK over the next three months.

Anyone who tests positive for Ebola will be transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in north London, the UK's specialist centre for treating the most dangerous infectious diseases, Mr Hunt said.

There are also plans to increase bed capacity for Ebola patients in Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield, to make a total of 26 beds available, he added.

Read more here: Some GPs still without Ebola safety suit and goggles

"I do believe we are amongst the best and most prepared countries in the world," he said.

"The situation will get worse before it gets better. But we shouldn't flinch in our resolve to defeat Ebola, both the safety of the British population and as part of our responsibility to some of the poorest countries on the planet."

Mr Hunt said the public health risk to the UK remained low but screening at airports could be extended to Birmingham and Manchester if the risk level increases.

He also announced that calls to the NHS's non-emergency 111 phoneline will be screened for potential Ebola sufferers.

Read more here: Ebola outbreak 'most serious health crisis in modern times'

David Cameron said Britain was doing more than almost any other country to help solve the crisis in west Africa after it was revealed the UK had committed £125 million to tackling Ebola.

The Prime Minister said: "Not only are we doing more than almost any other country in the world to deal with this problem at source in Sierra Leone and other countries, we are also taking very vigorous steps here to make sure we keep our people safe."

Britain's latest Ebola aid flight delivering beds, personal protection suits, tents and 10 vehicles landed in Freetown today, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said. It includes equipment for a 92-bed unit being built by a UK team.

Aid delivered so far includes ambulances, water tanks, incinerators for disposing of clothing and other materials, generators and personal protection equipment.

Read more here: 'Promising' Ebola vaccine begins clinical trials on humans 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned the epidemic is the "most severe acute health emergency in modern times", while the number of new cases of the disease is "rising exponentially" in the three hardest-hit countries - Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

WHO director-general Margaret Chan said the Ebola outbreak had shown "the world is ill-prepared to respond to any severe, sustained, and threatening public health emergency".

The United States announced a Texas hospital worker who was in contact with Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan has become the first person to contract the infection within the country.

Officials in Dallas said there had been been a breach of protocol that led to the woman becoming infected after she wore full protective gear while treating Mr Duncan.

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