THE UK is to introduce screening for people arriving from Ebola-affected countries at Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Eurostar terminals as fears surrounding the spread of the deadly disease continued to rise yesterday.
The move comes as it emerged that a 56-year-old British man, who has not been named, was suspected to have died of the disease in Macedonia, after travelling from London.
Another Brit who had been travelling with the man said that the individual had not visited any of the countries currently affected.
He was admitted to hospital with a fever and severe internal bleeding.
Downing Street announced that the screening programme in response to predictions that there was a 50-50 chance of Ebola reaching the UK.
But already the process has been criticised as not being thorough enough.
Passengers travelling from the affected regions – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will be quizzed over their health.
However, experts have said that screening passengers will not prevent the deadly disease from reaching Britain and that it is inevitable that there will be cases in the UK.
And there is criticism that the more reliable temperature screening being used at US points of entry will not be used in the UK.
The ramping up of UK health checks followed advice from the chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “Further screening has been kept under review throughout this period and advice from the chief medical officer today is that enhanced screening arrangements at the UK’s main ports of entry for people travelling from the affected regions will offer an additional level of protection to the UK.”
The spokeswoman said that the screening would involve assessing passengers’ recent travel history, who they had been in contact with and onward travel arrangements, as well as a possible medical assessment.
All checks will be conducted by trained medical personnel, rather than Border Force staff, who will also issue advice on what to do if travellers start to develop symptoms later.
Prof Dame Davies, said it was right to consider further measures to make sure potential cases of Ebola are identified as quickly as possible in the UK.
She said: “Although the risk to the UK remains low, in view of the concern about the growing number of cases, it is right to consider what further measures could be taken, to ensure that any potential cases arriving in the UK are identified as quickly as possible.”
In the US, Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a rapid global response would ensure that it did not become “the next Aids”.