SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Enhanced screening for signs of the deadly Ebola virus will begin at London Heathrow airport today, after the Health Secretary said the UK could expect to see a “handful” of cases within the coming months.
Jeremy Hunt said fever 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.
On Tuesday, he told MPs Britain is “among the best and most prepared countries” in the world to tackle any cases of Ebola. However, he warned: “The situation will get worse before it gets better”.
Screening and monitoring will include temperature checks and a questionnaire for travellers to fill out, which Mr Hunt said would ensure nine out of ten passengers travelling to the UK from affected regions on tickets booked directly to the UK are checked. 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.
There are also plans to increase bed capacity for Ebola patients in Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield, to make a total of 26 beds available.
The death toll in West Africa has reached more than 4,000 people, mainly from the worst-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. There has been over 8,000 suspected cases in the current outbreak.
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.
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.
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.”
Source: The Independent