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Heathrow Airport Screens for Ebola as U.K. Bars Direct Trips

Tuesday, 14 Oct 2014 06:23 AM

(Updates with screening process starting in second paragraph. For more on the Ebola virus, see EXT7 )

Oct. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Passengers arriving at London’s Heathrow airport were being screened for Ebola today as the U.K. stepped up measures for combating the disease, with plans to allow direct flights to afflicted parts of Africa scrapped.

Targeted screening of a “low number” of passengers began at Heathrow’s Terminal 1, which handles 85 percent of travelers to Europe’s busiest hub from Ebola-affected states. Checks including temperature readings are being carried out by the government agency Public Health England, the airport said.

Britain expects a “handful” of Ebola cases in the next few months, with the total unlikely to reach double figures, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told Parliament yesterday, adding that “the public health risk in the U.K. remains low.”

Ebola had claimed the lives of more than 4,000 people as of Oct. 8, almost all of them in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. All of Heathrow’s terminals will have introduced screening by the end of this week, with measures to be extended to London’s Gatwick airport and the St. Pancras terminal for Eurostar train services from Paris and Brussels by next week, Hunt said.

Freetown Flight-Ban

Once passengers have passed through screening in the immigration hall they’ll be given a telephone number to be used to contact health services should they develop symptoms. Those at highest risk will be monitored daily throughout the 21-day incubation period for the disease.

Hunt said Britain was planning for a far worse outbreak than is thought likely by the country’s chief medical officer.

People who test positive for the disease will be taken to the Royal Free Hospital in north London and there are plans to expand the number of specialist beds available in Newcastle, Liverpool and Sheffield in northern England, he said.

Britain has meanwhile scrapped plans to allow West African airline Gambia Bird to begin flights between London and Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. The service would have offered the first direct air link between the U.K. and the Ebola-hit region since British Airways halted flights weeks ago.

“Our priority is tackling the spread of Ebola and protecting the British public from the disease,” the government said in a statement. “Any inconvenience to passengers is unfortunate, but this is the right thing to do.”

Britain will continue to explore options for assisting travel by health workers to the affected areas, it said.

The International Air Transport Association, which represents the airline industry, reiterated that carriers need not suspend flights to the region hit by the virus, while adding that they are individually entitled to do so.

Carriers should follow World Health organization guidelines on Ebola, IATA Chief Executive Officer Tony Tyler said in Seoul.

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net; Kari Lundgren in London at klundgren2@bloomberg.net To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net; Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net Christopher Jasper, Andrew Atkinson

© Copyright 2017 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

 
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Tuesday, 14 Oct 2014 06:23 AM
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