Western nations mistreating Ebola 'heroes': UK charity

2nd November 2014, Comments 0 comments

The head of a leading British charity hit out Sunday at western nations for quarantining health worker "heroes" returning from Ebola-hit west Africa and refusing visas to people from the worst-hit countries.

Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth, on a trip to Sierra Leone, singled out immigration rules imposed by Canada and Australia and measures by some US states that quarantine medics who have treated infected patients.

"It is very important that nurses and doctors from abroad come to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea easily and also leave and return to their home country for rest without the threat of being quarantined," he said.

Experts say quarantining medical professionals who have shown no symptoms of the virus is counter-productive and could deter other workers from helping contain west Africa's Ebola crisis.

In a case which attracted international criticism, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie kept a nurse in an isolation tent for three days after she flew back from Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile Canada and Australia controversially announced last week that they were suspending visa applications from Ebola-hit west African nations to prevent the virus from crossing their borders.

"I think it's completely wrong what some governors in the United States have done and what the governments of Canada and Australia have done too," he told AFP in the capital Freetown.

"We should make it easy for health workers to come and go without hindrance (because) they are heroes.

"Forsyth spoke out at the end of a four-day visit to assess the extent of the epidemic in Sierra Leone, one of the hardest-hit countries with around 1,500 deaths.

Forsyth said the outbreak remained a "crisis" which was not yet under control but pointed to some recent progress, saying that safe burials within 24 hours of death had become much more commonplace.

Britain is taking the international lead in tackling Ebola in Sierra Leone due to its historic links with its former colony, which has been independent since 1961.

A UK army medical team arrived in Sierra Leone in October to work at a British-supported treatment centre.

Last week a naval ship brought 350 military and civilian personnel and materials to build and supply medical units, bringing the total British deployment to fight Ebola in Sierra Leone to about 900 people.

Forsyth visited an 100-bed treatment centre due to open this week in Kerry Town, near the capital Freetown, which has been funded by Britain, built by the British army and will be run by Save the Children.

He also visited the charity's door-to-door Ebola prevention teams and our Emergency Radio Education initiative offering lessons to children who are not attending school across the country.

Almost 5,000 people have been killed by the virus, according to data from the World Health Organization, which has recorded more than 13,000 cases but admits the real number of infections and deaths could be could be much higher.

© 2014 AFP

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