Sierra Leone Ebola – UK announces new profound package of measures

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 October 2014  

Ebola - Eric DuncanToday’s sad death of Eric Duncan (Photo) – the first person to die of Ebola in the USA, who fell ill after arriving from Liberia a few weeks ago, appears to have brought a sharp turning point in the response of the USA and the UK, in helping West Africa avert what is fast becoming a human and economic catastrophe.

Both the UK and the USA have announced major step up in practical support, especially for Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Scientists have warned that, should the current rates of infection and transmission continue in West Africa, more than 1.4 million people will die before April next year.

This is equivalent to more than 75% of the entire population of Freetown wiped out by Ebola. Is the new package of support announced today by the UK enough to avert this catastrophe?

Unofficial report from Sierra Leone now estimates the total number of Ebola cases at more than 3,000, with over 1,500 deaths. But the government is believed to be grossly under-reporting the truth about Ebola. It says that 2,504 people have so far contracted the virus, with 703 dead.

ebola dignity1Based on the rate of transmission and the projected rise in new cases in the next week, the Sierra Leone Telegraph estimates that more than 3,000 beds would be needed to cope with the treatment of confirmed cases and quarantining of those suspected across the country.

Report from the Waterloo Partnership in the far east of Freetown, says that Waterloo has become one of the Ebola hotspots in the country. “We have recently received the following news from Badara Mansaray, the Chair of the Waterloo Partnership, that: there are 36 new Ebola cases in the Waterloo area during the past few days and 35% of these have died, with 4 deaths yesterday. Some more have to be confirmed.

“About 300 people are now quarantined and we are expecting more if new suspected cases are confirmed. Waterloo has now been officially listed as one of the ‘Ebola hot spots in the Western Area.”

ebola aberdeen road2In Aberdeen – the far west of the capital Freetown, angry local youths were today reported to have gone on the rampage, as fighting broke out. A corpse has been left lying on the roadside for several days, awaiting collection.

Several of the Ebola burial teams are reported to be on strike.

Today’s measures announced by the British government come, amid fear that Sierra Leone may be teetering towards the edge of chaos and anarchy, caused by the Ebola crisis.

david-cameronThis afternoon the British Prime Minister – David Cameron chaired a meeting of the UK’s most powerful government cabinet committee for security and disaster (COBR), to discuss plans to protect the UK against the Ebola virus and combat the disease in West Africa.

After the meeting, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that; “The attendees included the Chancellor, Home Secretary, Defence Secretary, Health Secretary, Transport Secretary, International Development Secretary, Public Health Minister, Chief Medical Officer, Chief Scientist and Dr Paul Cosford from Public Health England. The Foreign Secretary in the US and UK team in Sierra Leone joined via a video link.

“The meeting covered both the UK preparedness for potential cases of Ebola in this country and the UK’s efforts to combat the disease in West Africa.

“There was a detailed discussion about plans for protecting the UK against Ebola. The Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, and Dr Paul Cosford set out that the UK had some of the best public health protection systems in the world and the risk to the UK remained low. The Chief Medical Officer detailed the procedures in place for dealing with any Ebola case in the UK, and the training and preparation that had already taken place with key organisations and staff, including ambulance medics, hospitals, NHS 111, GPs and other key public health workers.

“The case of Will Pooley had demonstrated the UK’s ability to deal with an identified case without wider infection, with a world-leading specialist unit at The Royal Free. Contingency planning would continue and will include a national exercise and wider resilience training to ensure the UK is fully prepared. The Chief Medical Officer has now issued further advice to medical professionals across the country and would continue to do so in the coming weeks. Information posters for passengers would be put up in UK airports.

“The Prime Minister was updated on the situation on the ground by the UK team in Sierra Leone, where the number of cases continues to rise. The UK was already taking a leading role in the efforts to support the government to deal with the outbreak. Using British expertise and local building contractors, the UK has committed to build at least 5 new Ebola Treatment Facilities with a total of 700 beds near urban centres including Port Loko, Freetown and Makeni.

“The package will provide help for up to nearly 8,800 patients over a 6 month period. The UK will  provide infection training for workers and support to ensure safe burials. The Department for International Development is undertaking a rapid trial of 10 local community care units to isolate Ebola cases more quickly, with clinics providing swift and accurate diagnosis and appropriate care.

“It was agreed that the UK will increase the level of support further. This will include more training capacity, new treatment centres and helicopter support.

RFA Argus“750 Ministry of Defence personnel will be deployed in total to help with the establishment of Ebola Treatment Centres and an Ebola Training Academy. This will include: the deployment of RFA Argus (Photo) to take and support 3 Merlin helicopters, aircrew and engineers in the region to provide crucial transport support to medical teams and aid experts. This will involve around 250 personnel.

“Over 200 military staff will be deployed to run and staff World Health Organisation-led Ebola training facility that will assist in the training of healthcare workers, logisticians and hygiene specialists who are needed to staff treatment units.”

300 military personnel making up the existing UK taskforce will deliver support to the Sierra Leone government.”

Two flights containing ambulances, tents and further UK aid to tackle the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone arrived in Freetown last weekend.

The flights delivered equipment to assist with the construction and operation of the UK’s 92 bed treatment facility, including generators, air conditioning units and lighting sets.

British troops arrive in FreetownA team of 40 British military personnel – including logisticians, planners and engineers – are currently on the ground to oversee the construction of the UK’s facility near Freetown.

The ambulances and minibuses will be used to move blood samples and patients from local communities to the treatment centre.

The ambulances have been fitted with special bulkheads to separate patients from the drivers to minimise the risk of infection.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: “These vital supplies will ensure that our treatment facility can be set up as soon as possible. Construction of our treatment centre is now well underway and the first phase will be operational soon. Britain’s treatment centre will provide a lifeline of care to Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.”

A convoy of vehicles loaded with DFID stores arrives at the Kerry Town Treatment Unit.The two flights that arrived last weekend in Freetown, delivered 4 minibuses; 2 ambulances; 3 incinerators for disposing of clothing and other materials; 12 generators; lighting sets; latrine slabs; temporary warehouse tents; a fuel bowser; air conditioning units; 6 water tanks and 3 4×4 vehicles.

Further aid supplies will be deployed from the Department for International Development’s emergency warehouse in Kemble, Gloucestershire. The equipment, including personal protection equipment for health workers, will be flown to Freetown to assist with the construction of the UK’s medical facility.

But today, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon laid out the new measures. He said; “The Ebola outbreak in west Africa is already a global threat to public health and it’s vital that the UK remains at the forefront of responding to the epidemic.

“Following today’s meeting we are stepping up significantly the UK’s contribution and leadership in work to tackle the outbreak on land, in the air and at sea.

“At the heart of the package is the commitment to provide more than 750 personnel to help with the establishment of Ebola treatment centres and an Ebola training academy.

“We are deploying troops, helicopters and a ship – army medics and Merlin helicopters supported by RFA Argus – to provide direct support and reassurance.

UK ebola supplies“The UK’s new pledge for military involvement will include; a commitment to provide further personnel to the region who will join the highly-skilled engineers, logisticians and planners that are already on the ground to support the construction of the Kerry Town Ebola treatment unit

“Support for a World Health Organisation-led Ebola training facility to assist in the training of healthcare workers, logisticians and hygienists who are needed to staff treatment units; this support includes the provision of over 200 military staff to run the site.

Merlin HC.3A ZJ998 / AE at RAF Benson“Three Royal Navy Merlin helicopters and aircrew and engineers to facilitate the rapid movement of key personnel to areas where they are required

“An aviation support ship that will operate as a forward base for our helicopters

“The UK armed forces have so far played a pivotal role in delivering the current British support as they work with the government of Sierra Leone to tackle the crisis.

“Using British expertise and local building contractors, the UK has committed to support 700 new beds in Ebola treatment facilities.

“This new package will further support the country’s stretched public health services in containing the disease by helping up to nearly 8,800 patients over a 6-month period.

“Military personnel will deploy to Sierra Leone next week where they will join military engineers and planners who have been in country for almost a month, overseeing the construction of the medical facilities.”

The UK has already pledged £125 million to support the global effort to contain, control and defeat the disease in Sierra Leone. This includes support for 700 Ebola treatment beds. These will provide direct medical care up to 8,800 patients over six months. It will also shore up the country’s stretched public health services to help contain the disease. This includes vital supplies such as chlorine and protective clothing for thousands of health workers.

With UK support, WHO are now training over 120 health workers every week.

On 2 October the UK hosted – alongside the Government of Sierra Leone – an international conference to rally the global community to provide an effective international response. The conference brought together more than 20 governments, a dozen charities and NGOs, the UN, World Bank, health experts and the private sector to pledge funds, equipment and health workers.

Several countries have pledged millions of dollars towards the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone.

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