Government rejects UK Ebola criticism

British prime minister calls for EU states to do more to fight epidemic in west Africa

Bridget Anne Mulrooney, a volunteer nurse from the US, dons protective clothing before a shift at a clinic in Suakoko, Liberia, yesterday. Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/New York Times service

Bridget Anne Mulrooney, a volunteer nurse from the US, dons protective clothing before a shift at a clinic in Suakoko, Liberia, yesterday. Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/New York Times service

 

The Government last night responded to an appeal to European leaders by British prime minister David Cameron to “significantly step up their contribution” in the fight against the Ebola virus by saying it was already fully engaged with the crisis and was “already there”.

Mr Cameron last night made an appeal to fellow leaders of the EU, saying he was looking for a combined one billion euro pledge.

In a letter written to 26 other leaders as well as to European Council president Herman van Rompuy, Mr Cameron seemed to express frustration that other countries were failing to shoulder their share of the burden of international efforts to deal with the deadly epidemic in west Africa.

He called for an “ambitious package of support” at a Brussels summit next week.

Britain has committed £125 million (€157 million), the second highest sum after the US. The import of the letter was that others were lagging behind, although no country is specified or singled out.

A Government spokesman said last night that Ireland’s Ambassador to the EU in Brussels had already been fully briefed on the letter sent by Mr Cameron to Mr Van Rompuy, although the personal letter to Taoiseach Enda Kenny had not yet been received.

Dragging their heels

“It is the case that the Government is already fully engaged with preparing a comprehensive response to Ebola, and the need to be fully prepared, in cooperation with our EU partners,” said the spokesman.

“In that sense, we are already there. We look forward to it being discussed at EU leader level to make sure that the EU is where it needs to be in relation to the outbreak.”

Britain is the only country which has introduced airport screening to date and it has urged others to do likewise.

However, the spokesman said Ireland had its own position in relation to screening.

“We are satisfied with it. Generally, there is a need for a collective approach to the Ebola outbreak. We are of the view that the EU is the ideal vehicle for doing that.”

The leaders will meet for the summit in Brussels next week.

In his letter, Mr Cameron also argued that more money was needed to train at least 2,000 workers – including 1,000 clinical staff – to go out to the affected regions.

He appealed for a “duty of care package” to be established for anyone who contracted Ebola while working at a European-run or funded medical facility. Other key demands include more co-ordination on screening at European ports of entry.

Ambitious package

Europe

The US also issued a stark warning that the international community would be responsible for a substantial loss of life in west Africa and a greater threat across the world unless the financial and medical response to the Ebola crisis was intensified.

As the World Health Organisation admitted mishandling the early stages of the outbreak, US secretary of state John Kerry said a failure to respond could turn Ebola into “a scourge like HIV or polio”.

He criticised the international community for providing only a third of the UN $1 billion target . The Ebola death toll has risen to 4,546 of 9,191 known cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the WHO said. – (Additional reporting agencies)