PM joins Ebola talks with Obama


Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Prime Minister David Cameron is to speak with US president Barack Obama, as well as the leaders of Germany, France and Italy, about international efforts to counter the outbreak of Ebola.

The discussion, by conference call this afternoon, comes as it was revealed that a second US health care worker had tested positive for the illness, which has already claimed almost 4,500 lives, mainly in west Africa.

Downing Street said it believes Britain has “robust” measures in place to protect the UK against the spread of Ebola, including screening procedures at Heathrow Airport.

Today’s hour-long video call between Mr Cameron, Mr Obama, German chancellor Angela Merkel, French president Francois Hollande and Italian PM Matteo Renzi is expected also to touch on the struggle against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria as well as the crisis in Ukraine, but will focus mainly on the Ebola outbreak, said Number 10.

Mr Cameron is due to chair the latest in a series of meetings of the Government’s Cobra contingencies committee to discuss Ebola tomorrow.

Asked whether the UK’s approach would be reviewed in the light of the new US infection, the PM’s official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: “We held an emergency exercise simulating two Ebola cases here at the weekend. We are constantly keeping our measures and procedures under review.

“We do believe that they are robust, but it is right that they are tested in the way they were at the weekend.

“Public Health England is in touch with their US counterparts and we will of course look at any lessons to be learnt from the US experience. Part of being able to say that we are confident in our procedures is that we test them and are always ready to learn if there are further measures that could be taken.”

Officials in Texas said a worker at a Dallas hospital has tested positive for Ebola, after reporting a fever on Tuesday.

The positive test is the second involving staff at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Thomas Duncan – the first person to be diagnosed with Ebola in the US after flying in from Liberia – was treated before his death last week.

The World Health Organisation has recorded 8,914 cases of Ebola, including 4,447 deaths. But WHO assistant director-general Bruce Aylward has warned that the number of new cases is likely to hit 5,000-10,000 a week by early December, with as many of 70% of those infected dying as a result of the disease.

Passengers arriving at Heathrow on indirect tickets from countries hit by the Ebola outbreak are being asked to fill a questionnaire to check potential exposure to the disease and have their temperature taken. The system is expected to be extended to Gatwick Airport and St Pancras Eurostar station over the next week.

But there was confusion yesterday as some of those arriving at Terminal 1 from the three affected African states – Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea – said they were given an option over whether they wanted to undergo screening, which Downing Street insisted was mandatory.

The checks are expected to cost £9 million over the next six months. Border Force officials will pass people travelling from affected countries to teams of PHE clinicians, who will be at the airport all the time it is operating.

The “Ebola health assessment questionnaire” asks whether individuals have been in contact with suspected victims of the disease, visited “traditional healers”, or been admitted to hospital.

They are also quizzed on whether they are experiencing symptoms such as headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea or unexplained bleeding.

Once their temperature is taken, they will then be free to go, referred for further assessment, classed as low risk and sent away with information to monitor their own condition, or classed as higher risk and actively monitored.

Plans are in place to expand the system to other points of entry if necessary – although the Government stresses that the vast majority of travellers from West Africa arrive at Heathrow.

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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