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Radio Sandwell News

UK Ebola screening for arrivals from affected countries

2014-10-09 20:04:31


The US has already implemented checks for passengers arriving at some American airports

The UK is to introduce "enhanced screening" for Ebola for arrivals from affected countries.

Downing Street said passengers arriving at Gatwick, Heathrow and on Eurostar would face questions and potentially a medical assessment.

Earlier ministers had ruled out screening, saying the UK was following World Health Organisation advice.

Meanwhile, the UK is investigating reports a Briton suspected of having Ebola has died in Macedonia.

The outbreak of the disease has already killed more than 3,000 people and infected more than 7,200 - mostly in West Africa.

Medical checks

News agency Reuters cited a "senior Macedonian government official" in a report saying a British man with Ebola had died.

A second Briton had "shown symptoms of the virus", the report said.

The UK Foreign Office said it was "aware of the reports" and was "urgently looking into them".

Earlier this week a Spanish nurse became the first person to contract the deadly virus outside of West Africa.


The condition of a Spanish nurse with the virus has worsened, according to the hospital treating her

People leaving areas affected by the outbreak have been subject to checks for some weeks.

Ministers had ruled introducing screening at UK airports, pointing out that government policy was in line with advice from the World Health Organisation.

A statement on the Department of Health's website also said: "Entry screening in the UK is not recommended by the World Health Organisation, and there are no plans to introduce entry screening for Ebola in the UK."

But in a statement, Number 10 said advice from the chief medical officer was that checks on arrivals would "offer an additional level of protection to the UK".

The new checks - for those arriving from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea - will involve "assessing passengers' recent travel history, who they have been in contact with and onward travel arrangements", it said.

Passengers could also be subject to medical checks "by trained medical personnel rather than Border Force staff" and will be given advice on "what to do should they develop symptoms later".

Analysis

By James Gallagher, health editor, BBC News website

The UK's stance on screening has shifted rapidly.

As recently as two days ago Public Health England was saying firmly there were no plans for screening arrivals.

The argument being there was exit-screening in affected countries, the WHO said it was unnecessary and it would mean screening "huge numbers of low-risk people".

But now there will be "enhanced screening" for arrivals from affected countries.

So what has changed?

The chief medical officer argues concern over rising numbers of cases justifies the move, although it is not clear what assessment of the threat to the UK has changed since Tuesday.

However, some scientists have argued the move is more political than scientific

The advice issued on Thursday from the UK's chief medical officer said it was now "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".

BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott said the announcement was more about looking like something was being done than stopping the disease's spread.

Medical experts say the chances of someone boarding a flight with no symptoms and being contagious by the time they land was "highly, highly unlikely", our correspondent added.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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