Plans to ‘defeat’ Ebola with a large-scale deployment by the British army are being considered by the Chief of the General Staff, who would dispatch a brigade to lock-down former British colony Sierra Leone at least until late 2015.
Ebola has now killed over 4,500 in West Africa, and the rate of infection is increasing at a concerning pace. Many groups and charities have been calling for greater Western involvement in the counter-Ebola operation, including Britain’s Oxfam, which has recently called for greater military deployment, reports the Daily Mail.
Looking to increase the number of men committed before the present deployment has even begun, Sir Nick Carter, the new Chief of the General Staff may advise the government to boost the deployment from the present battalion of 750 to a Brigade of 3,000. The expanded force would operate roadblocks throughout Sierra Leone, with elements deploying deep into the jungle.
By placing army roadblocks on important routes and key junctions, soldiers armed with thermometer-guns would be able to prevent the spread of the virus by road and identify carriers early, reducing the chance of further infection. If the army were to take the advice of Oxfam, soldiers would also increase their programme of setting up treatment centres, a task for which elements of the army has been training in recent weeks.
An army source told the Mail about the unique approach the military brought to counter-Ebola missions: “From a military perspective Ebola is like a biological warfare attack and should be countered accordingly. There needs to be a clampdown on human movement inside Sierra Leone and possibly to and from the country between now and late 2015 when it is hoped that an antidote will have been developed”.
The British medical ship RFA Argus sailed to Freetown, Sierra Leone on Friday and will act as a floating helicopter base and medical unit for British forces operating in the country. It has been suggested the Royal Navy could also step up its contribution to the deployment to compliment the Argus, by providing craft to patrol the coast.
The British army last deployed to Sierra Leone in 2000 to play its part in quelling the Sierra Leone civil war, a successful mission and one which is now considered among military circles to be a model of military intervention.
Sierra Leone is one of the hardest-hit of the Ebola countries, with over 1,000 dead and over 3,000 confirmed cases in the small nation of only six million. The United Nations has recently warned of the spreading infection, which could be causing up to 10,000 new cases a week by December. At the present rate of growth and mortality, a million could die by late next year from a disease for which there is still no reliable cure.