European Union health ministers have called for an immediate review of screening for Ebola at some West African airports, as the isolation of a plane in Madrid over a suspected case on board highlighted fears that the disease could spread to Europe.
Spanish authorities reported four new patients with suspected Ebola symptoms, including a Spanish priest who had recently been in Liberia and a passenger who became ill while on an Air France flight from Lagos via Paris.
The passengers were allowed to disembark at Madrid airport while the person was transferred to hospital for tests.
The drama unfolded as EU health ministers attended an extraordinary meeting in Brussels to forge a plan to tackle the disease, which has killed more than 4,500 people.
Tonio Borg, the EU’s Health Commissioner, said they would coordinate with the World Health Organisation to ensure that protocol was being followed at airports in the worst-hit nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, as there had been reports of safety lapses.
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
1/7 25 March 2014
This outbreak of the Ebola virus first emerged in the Guéckédou region of Guinea, at a crossroads with both Liberia and Sierra Leone
2/7 31 March
On 31 March the WHO confirmed the outbreak was now international, spreading first into Liberia's northern-most Lofa region
3/7 27 May
The virus spread to Sierra Leone at the end of May - just as agencies were hoping the worst was over
4/7 27 July
In Sierra Leone the virus boomed, and then it spread to Nigeria when the Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew from Monrovia to Lagos
5/7 9 August
The Nigeria cases sparked fears around the world, and there have now been deaths in Spain and Saudi Arabia involving people who had travelled to West Africa. The numbers of cases continue to rise
6/7 17-20 September
In mid-September, Senegal confirmed its first case linked to the Ebola outbreak, a development the WHO described as a top priority emergency. Numbers of cases continued to grow exponentially in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as experts warned they could number one million by January if not contained
7/7 8 October
Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa
The ministers also vowed to increase coordination between the 28 member states to raise awareness of Ebola at entry points into the EU, with information and questionnaires for passengers travelling from affected areas.
But they stopped short of ordering screening for the highly infectious disease in every country, leaving it up to individual nations. France became the second EU nation after the UK to announce screening, which will begin on Saturday at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
“There was agreement that whilst the threat of Ebola to Europe remains low, it is sensible for states to take precautions to safeguard their own populations,” said Britain’s Health minister, Jane Ellison.
While there has only been one case of a person contracting Ebola within EU borders – a nurse in Madrid who treated two Spanish missionaries infected in West Africa – the ease with which people can move between EU countries is worrying some governments.
UN Ebola fund: The world falls short
A trust fund set up by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to raise $1bn (£620m) to fight Ebola has only $100,000 in the bank, he has said. Mr Ban said dozens of countries were “showing their solidarity”, such as the UK, US and China, but other states with “the capacity” to help needed to do so.
Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, told the BBC’s Newsnight he was “bitterly disappointed by the response” from developed countries. “If the crisis had hit some other region it probably would have been handled very differently,” he said.Reuse content