PM presses EU leaders on Ebola fund

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Published: Saturday 18th October 2014 by The News Editor

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David Cameron has called for fellow European Union leaders to double their contribution to the fight to tackle the Ebola virus, demanding a combined one billion euro (£800 million) pledge.

The Prime Minister made clear his frustration that other countries are failing to shoulder their share of the burden of international efforts to deal with the deadly epidemic in West Africa.

He has written to the other 26 leaders and European Council president Herman van Rompuy calling for agreement to an “ambitious package of support” at a Brussels summit next week.

Britain has committed £125 million to its contribution – the second highest sum after the US – but Mr Cameron said “much more must be done”.

Downing Street said the total contribution from the EU is just 500 million euros (£400 million) and Mr Cameron vowed to use next week’s meeting of European leaders to press for more action.

More money is needed to train at least 2,000 workers – including 1,000 clinical staff – to go out to the affected regions, Mr Cameron suggested – appealing also for a “duty of care package” to be established for any that contracted Ebola while working at a European-run or funded medical facility.

Under it, they would be guaranteed treatment based on clinical advice to a European standard in country or medically evacuated.

Other key demands include increased co-ordination on screening at ports of entry to Europe, and sharing information on handling cases to help reduce the risk of further transmission within the EU.

Better co-ordination of flights to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia for frontline health staff to ensure at least weekly services, boosting supplies of medical equipment, improving testing and staffing more labs, and relaxing procurement rules on related equipment are also part of the proposals.

In his letter, the Prime Minister said: “The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is an issue that requires a substantial global response.

“The rapid spread of the disease and recent cases outside the West African region demonstrate the magnitude of the task at hand. The World Health Organisation forecast 20,000 cases in West Africa by November 2014.

“I believe that much more must be done. The European Council next week provides us with the opportunity to commit to an ambitious package of support to help reduce the rate of transmission in West Africa, to reduce the risk of transmission within Europe, and to pledge long-term support to assist with recovery, resilience and stability in the region.

“By co-ordinating our approach, I believe the EU and its member states can maximise the effectiveness of our response.”

Britain is playing a major role in tackling the disease in Sierra Leone and the medical ship RFA Argus is sailing for West Africa loaded with three Merlin helicopters and a crew of around 350, including 80 medics and 80 Royal Marines.

RFA Argus, which has a fully-equipped 100-bed hospital on board, set sail from Cornwall yesterday and is due to moor off the coast of Sierra Leone by the end of the month. The deployment is expected to last six months.

Its facilities will not be used to treat Ebola patients but will be there in case any of the UK military and civilian personnel working in the region become ill or are injured during the course of the operation.

By the end of October, 750 military personnel will be in Sierra Leone and the UK’s treatment centres are expected to provide direct medical care for up to 8,800 Ebola patients over six months.

Published: Saturday 18th October 2014 by The News Editor

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