FORMER minister Barry Andrews was among four Irish people left "shocked" after an Ebola scare on a flight out of West Africa.
The CEO of Goal has described how he witnessed cabin crew on board the flight from Sierra Leone to Morocco put on protective suits and masks - but none were offered to passengers. A male passenger was isolated in a cubicle after being found to have a temperature of 39C.
"Obviously, it was a very unpleasant experience," Mr Andrews told the Irish Independent.
"Goal has been heavily involved in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, so we are very well aware that it is not airborne but seeing an air steward head-to-toe in the full protective gear . . . you wouldn't be human if you weren't a bit shocked."
The flight had originated in Monrovia, in Liberia, and stopped off in Freetown, in Sierra Leone, before the incident. Both Liberia and Sierra Leone are epicentres for the Ebola outbreak. Mr Andrews, a former children's minister, was accompanied on the flight by Goal media officer, Dave Williams, and two journalists from Independent News and Media.
Mr Williams said: "It was like something out of a film. We have been working on health initiatives for the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, so seeing that suit on the plane was quite a shock."
INM photographer Mark Condren added: "We asked one of them why they were wearing face masks and he said, 'we think a passenger might have Ebola'. We asked why the passengers weren't given face masks and he didn't have an answer."
A number of airlines, including British Airways and Air France, have already halted flights serving West Africa.
"The relief effort very much depends on commercial airlines providing a service for clinicians, aid workers and supplies - and we hope this incident does not impact on that," Mr Andrews said.
As the ambulance arrived at the gate of the hospital, the driver in his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gave the thumbs up. But the clinical team weren't ready and the driver was asked to park up while final preparations were made.