Australia Steps Up Ebola Response

Australia Steps Up Ebola Response

Australia stepped up its response to the Ebola crisis Wednesday in announcing Aus$20 million (US$17 million) to help staff a 100-bed British-built treatment centre in Sierra Leone.

It is the first targeted help Canberra has agreed to give to fight the outbreak in West Africa where the deadly disease has killed almost 5,000 people, although it has previously donated cash.

Despite increasing domestic political pressure, Canberra has until now refused to send medical professionals to tackle the epidemic, arguing there was no way to get them home safely.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the government would not directly deploy health workers to west Africa but would contract a private medical services firm, Aspen, to staff the centre. Some of those working for Aspen are expected to be Australian.

He said Australia had won assurances that Britain would help if any Australian becomes infected.

Abbott also announced plans to further ramp up Australia’s domestic preparedness, including extra screening at airports of people arriving from west Africa.