Ebola outbreak: UK officials 'not prepared' to deal with virus arriving at border, union leader warns

Contrary to what Foreign Secretary says, border staff 'don't know what to do or how to protect themselves'

UK border officials feel they are unprepared to deal with the threat of the Ebola virus arriving in Britain, a union leader has said.

It comes after the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond concluded a meeting of the Government's emergency committee Cobra by trying to reassure the public that the disease was "not a significant risk to the UK".

Public Health England has told The Independent that it has been briefing the UK Border Agency, airlines, doctors and Government departments on what needs to happen if a person with Ebola arrives.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight programme, the leader of the Immigration Service Union said her members were very concerned and did not know what they were supposed to do if they suspected the worst.

Lucy Moreton said: "They serve on the front line; they are the first point of contact usually for people coming off an aircraft and the concern is what do they do if they're confronted with someone that doesn't appear well who appears at the border.

Read more:
Philip Hammond says UK 'ready' for Ebola outbreak
What is Ebola? The signs, source and symptoms
UK doctors and border officials warned on Ebola
The 10 biggest threats to the world's health

"There is no health facility at the border, there is no containment facility and until extremely recently there has been no guidance issued to staff at all as to what they should do."

Ms Moreton said the union had repeatedly received calls from its members asking for further guidance on what to do - and how they could protect themselves - but said she and other union leaders didn't have the answers.

The Ebola virus is now believed to have killed almost 700 people in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, as well as a single case in Lagos, Nigeria that sparked fears of a much wider international outbreak.

Such high numbers of deaths are not believed to be a risk in the UK, where health officials say better standards of infection control would see any suspected patient isolated in a special unit and potentially diagnosed within 24 hours.

So far the only suspected case of Ebola in Britain - a man who returned to Birmingham Airport from Benin City in Nigeria on Monday - has returned negative after testing, the Department of Health confirmed.

Video: Hammond - 'There is a threat'

Mr Hammond said last night: "The indicators we get is that this is not growing exponentially and that [Ebola] appears to be contained in the worst outbreak areas.

"In terms of the UK, the issue is about the possibility of someone who has contracted the disease in Africa getting sick here. It is not about the disease spreading in the UK. We have different standards of infection control."

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, also attended the Cobra meeting and said the NHS had scientists and doctors with "a lot of experience dealing with dangerous infectious diseases".

Both agreed that the best action the UK could take on Ebola was to help deal with the situation at source in West Africa - which remains dire.

Speaking in an interview with Metro, a doctor from Manchester described how medical practitioners in Sierra Leone were struggling to cope with the pressure.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond chaired the Cobra meeting Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond chaired the Cobra meeting Benjamin Black said he had worked 24-hour shifts at a clinic in the southern city of Bo, and that the health infrastructure there was "overwhelmed". Dr Black called for greater support for agencies such as Medecins Sans Frontieres working in the region.

A number of healthcare workers fighting the outbreak have themselves been struck down with the disease. Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor, Sheikh Umar Khan, described as a "national hero", died on Tuesday, shortly after three nurses working with him also died. An American doctor, Kent Brantly, is in intensive care in Monrovia, Liberia, after contracting the disease.

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile Developer (.NET / C# / Jason / Jquery / SOA)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + bonus + benefits + OT: Ampersand Consulting LLP: M...

Humanities Teacher - Greater Manchester

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The JobAt ...

Design Technology Teacher

£22800 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Calling al...

Foundation Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: EYFS Teachers - East Essex...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes