Wednesday, July 30, 2014 9:08 am
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he would hold a top-level government meeting to discuss the outbreak of the highly-infectious Ebola virus across West Africa which he warned posed a threat to Britain.
“It is a threat. It is something we need to respond to,” Hammond told BBC TV.
Ebola is believed to have killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the outbreak began in February, according to the World Health Organisation.
It also killed a Liberian-American, Patrick Sawyer who travelled from Liberia to Lagos on 20 July, already with the disease. He died last Friday, setting off panic buttons in Nigeria and across the globe, bewildered by the possibility that air travellers could spread the deadly virus.
Hammond said no British citizens were believed to be affected and no cases had been reported in Britain, but said he would chair an emergency Cobra meeting of officials on Wednesday to look at what precautions were needed.
BBC News also reports:
Mr Hammond told BBC News the government was “absolutely focused” on tackling the threat posed by the disease, including looking at “whether there are precautions we need to take – either in the UK or to protect our nationals in the area abroad”.
He went on: “At the moment we don’t think any British nationals [abroad] are affected and we are fairly confident there are no cases in the UK.
“But it is a threat, it is something we need to respond to and we will be doing so through the Cobra mechanism.”
Earlier, the government’s chief scientist Sir Mark Walport told the Daily Telegraph Ebola was a threat because of how “interconnected” the world was now.
Sir Mark said: “The most dangerous infections of humans have always been those which have emerged from other species. They are a potential major threat to us.
“Emerging infectious disease is a global grand challenge. We were lucky with Sars. But we have to do the best horizon scanning.
“We have to think about risk and managing risk appropriately.”
Elsewhere, Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health at Public Health England, said the outbreak was “clearly not yet under control” in West Africa.
He told the Independent: “We have been talking to all levels of government, including the prime minister’s office, on the West Africa situation.
“When these things start to escalate we work with everybody to ensure they are aware of what needs to happen.”