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Mame Biram Diouf

UK to Introduce Ebola Screening At Airports and Eurostar Terminals

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Checks to be carried out on people travelling from worst affected countries, following advice from chief medical officer.


Travellers arriving at British airports will be screened for symptoms of Ebola, the virus that has claimed over 3,800 lives in west Africa, Downing Street has announced.


People travelling from the worst affected countries - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - will face checks on their recent travel history, who they have been in contact with and their onward travel arrangements as well as a possible medical assessment. In the first place the checks will be carried out at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar terminals.


The policy follows advice from the chief medical officer and will involve trained medical personnel being deployed alongside UK Border staff.


The move came just hours after the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, appeared to resist such a move, citing World Health Organisation advice that screening for fevers or temperature is better conducted in the exit country. Shortly afterwards the chancellor George Osborne said airport checks would be introduced if medical experts deem it necessary.


The apparent U-turn follows growing public concern about Ebola reaching the UK from west Africa which has been hit by the worst outbreak of the virus since it was discovered in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has warned a person with Ebola coming to the UK was “entirely possible”. Hospital doctors, the ambulance service, local authorities and the police will this weekend stage war game-style simulations to test Britain’s ability to cope with an outbreak.


However, leading experts in infectious diseases have warned airport screening in the UK is “very ineffectual” and risks creating “a false sense of security”. But they also moved to play down fears of major UK outbreak. Peter Piot, a Belgian microbiologist who is part of the World Health Organisation’s Ebola science group, said: “I’m not concerned about an outbreak in western Europe, in the UK, like we are seeing in west Africa.”


Cases have already been reported in Spain and the US, where a man died on Thursday after flying in from Liberia with the disease. Washington has announced that travellers from the worst-hit countries will have their temperatures taken on arrival at five major airports in New York, Washington, Chicago and Atlanta.


UK border officials have been instructed to check passengers for visible signs of the virus since July. The move to introduce more detailed vetting could potentially involve using electronic screening equipment. It represents a major escalation of attempts to prevent the illness gaining a foothold in Britain. Technology used elsewhere include infrared thermometers which can be pointed at passengers faces from within 15cm to detect fever and thermal scanning cameras which can check several people at once but are less accurate, according to a report by US experts.


The chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “Although the risk to the UK remains low, in view of the concern about the growing number of cases, it is right to consider what further measures could be taken, to ensure that any potential cases arriving in the UK are identified as quickly as possible.


“Rapid access to healthcare services by someone infected with Ebola is not only important for their health but also key to reducing the risk of transmission to others. These measures could include a further UK based package of measures to identify and assess the health status of passengers arriving from the affected countries and to ensure that those individuals know what to do should they be taken ill whilst in the UK.”


Pressure for airport screening grew early on Thursday when Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, which scrutinises border controls, called for the tests “to ensure that this deadly disease cannot take more lives”. Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, also urged the government to consider passenger screening “without delay”.



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What your media doesn't tell you #3578977

The spread of the Ebola Virus Disease to the United States and some European countries has forced many Nigerian travellers to cancel their flights to some of the affected countries.

This is even as health and immigration officials at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos have been ordered to properly screen passengers coming into the country from the affected countries.

The European countries of Spain and Norway have recorded cases of Ebola, with medical workers outside a hospital in Spain protesting over suspected cases of the disease.

Investigation by our correspondent revealed that some passengers billed to travel from Nigeria had been cancelling their flights over renewed fears of the deadly disease.

Mrs. Tope Philips, who was booked to travel on Delta Air flight to the US on Monday, cancelled the booking and opted to go to a Far East country for her vacation.

“Ebola is very deadly and it is better to stay away and prevent it as much as possible. I will go to the Far East, maybe Jordan or Qatar, for my annual vacation and visit the US maybe next year. It is too dicey to take a risk now,” she said.

Another passenger, Mr. Wilson Johnson, a Nigerian based in Ghana, said he had postponed his business trip to the US till December.

“Thank God I am in a position to shelve the meeting. I cannot go now because my wife also called me from Accra, advising me not to go to the US now. They may not be as serious there as the Nigerian government that took charge of the Ebola situation,” Johnson said.

An official of Delta Airlines, who gave her name as Marylyn Thomas, told our correspondent that since Ebola hit the US, some passengers had rescheduled or cancelled their flights.

“It is becoming a serious issue and I think everyone is trying to be careful since the news broke out. Already, some passengers are showing serious concerns and some have gone as far as cancelling or rescheduling their flights,” Thomas said.

Sources at the Aviation ministry and the Port Health Authority told our correspondent on Wednesday that officials had been told to intensify the screening process of people arriving from countries with reported cases of the EVD.

An official of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, who did not want to be quoted, confirmed the development and told our correspondent that it was important not to take chances in the light of current happenings in the United States, Spain and Norway.

“We just have to be careful to prevent any possible spillover since people come in from all parts of the world. We are battle ready to intensify screening and prevent any case in Lagos and Nigeria generally,” he said.

An official of the Port Health Authority, who gave her name as Mrs. Esther Awoyemi, said officials had been kept on alert and that checks had been intensified since the fresh case of the EVD was reported in the US.

She said, “As you are aware, the confirmed patient in US is dead. We have been instructed to take special care, especially with incoming passengers from the affected countries; and now, we are to be cautious of European and US passengers.

“The ministry does not want a reoccurrence of what happened here a few months back; some countries are beginning to look up to us for strategies on how to contain the disease; so, we have to do everything to ensure that we do not have fresh cases.”

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