Europe ‘must double funding’ in Ebola fight

A Liberian health worker holds a baby infected with the Ebola virus as the UK calls for more aid. Picture: AFP
A Liberian health worker holds a baby infected with the Ebola virus as the UK calls for more aid. Picture: AFP
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THE UK government has called for other wealthy countries to do more to combat the spread of Ebola in west Africa, with EU leaders urged to double their funding in the fight to £800 million.

The plea comes after one of the doctors who discovered the virus, Professor Peter Piot, said the rest of Europe was not doing enough to tackle the epidemic in west Africa.

Downing Street, which has committed £125m to tackling Ebola, urged EU leaders to double their funding in the fight from £400m to £800m.

In a letter to the president of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and fellow EU leaders, Prime Minister David Cameron warned that “we need to act fast to contain and defeat this deadly virus”.

He added: “If we do not significantly step up our collective response now, the loss of life and damage to the political, economic and social fabric of the region will be substantial and the threat posed to our citizens will also grow.”

Kofi Annan, the former UN secretary-general, said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the response of the international community.

“If the crisis had hit some other region, it probably would have been handled very differently,” he said.

Mr Cameron’s appeal came ahead of Thursday’s meeting of European leaders in Brussels at which he has vowed to press for more action.

Critics believe Germany could make a greater contribution of cash and medical resources while France could ramp up efforts in Guinea to match Britain’s in Sierra Leone.

Justine Greening, the UK international development secretary, has also called upon world leaders to “wake up” to the crisis.

She said yesterday: “As part of Britain’s £125m response, we are building six treatment centres across Sierra Leone which are vital to controlling and defeating the Ebola outbreak.

“We will provide direct care for up to 8,800 patients over six months and this latest flight has delivered the kit needed to provide treatment for Ebola victims.

Ms Greening has also revealed that the UK was “well prepared” for the “handful” of cases experts predict are likely to occur in the country.

Shadow international development secretary Jim Murphy said the UK was “doing well” in the scale of its response but other countries had to do their bit.

He said: “The fact is, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, has given many more times the donations than countries like Italy; Ikea, the furniture warehouse, has given more or about the same as Italy.

“So there are countries that aren’t doing enough and we have to say that publicly and we have to try and persuade them. But if countries like Italy won’t do their bit, we have also got to embarrass them.”

Britain’s latest Ebola aid flight carrying vital medical supplies landed in Freetown on Saturday. It was the UK’s sixth aid flight and carried almost £900,000 worth of medical equipment needed for the 92-bed treatment facility in Kerry Town, including blood banks, centrifuges and protective equipment such as goggles and gloves.

Oxfam has warned that more troops, funding and medical staff are urgently needed to prevent the Ebola outbreak becoming the “definitive humanitarian disaster of our generation”.

Nurse in Spain may have beaten deadly virus

The Spanish nurse who contracted Ebola while caring for two infected priests in a Madrid hospital, becoming the first person to contract the virus outside West Africa, appears to have overcome the deadly disease, the government said last night.

Tests on Teresa Romero, 44, hospitalised earlier this month with a high fever and treated in an isolation unit in a specially-adapted hospital in central Madrid, gave a negative result for the virus yesterday, it said in a statement.

Usually patients must take another test within 72 hours to be given the all-clear from the disease, which has killed thousands in West Africa.

Ms Romero was treated with a drip of human serum containing antibodies from Ebola sufferers who had survived the disease and other drugs which a government spokeswoman declined to name.

One was the experimental anti-viral medicine favipiravir, El Mundo newspaper said.

Ms Romero is the only known sufferer of Ebola in Spain. There are a further 15 people in hospital, including Ms Romero’s husband, under observation for signs of the disease.

Ebola has killed at least 4,546 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in the recent outbreak, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

Spain has given its permission for the US to use its military bases in an operation to send up to 4,000 troops to West Africa to help contain the disease.

Spain will approve requests for the United States to use the bases at Rota near Cadiz and at Morón de la Frontera near Seville in southern Spain, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement on Saturday.

Meanwhile a US health care worker checked for Ebola while on board the Mexico-bound cruise ship Carnival Magic has tested negative for the disease.

The US Coast Guard was scrambled on Saturday to collect a blood sample from the woman, a lab supervisor who handled a specimen from the USA’s first confirmed Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan.

He died on 8 October in Texas.