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Prime Minister David Cameron has defended the decision to introduce enhanced screening for Ebola at major airports and terminals, saying it had been taken on medical advice .
Questions have been raised about the checks, which are to take place at Heathrow, Gatwick and Eurostar rail terminals, with a spokesman for Gatwick saying today that the airport had not been given any instructions about how the screening should be carried out.
The move has also been criticised by health experts, with one describing it as a complete waste of time , while Labour MP Keith Vaz said the lack of precise information available about the screening was shambolic .
Further details of what the tests would involve were not available from Public Health England today, with yesterday s announcement following confusion over whether the Government would introduce the measure and conflicting messages coming from Chancellor George Osborne, the Department of Health, and Defence Secretary Michael Fallon.
Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Mr Vaz said he welcomed the introduction of targeted screening because it puts us on the same page as the Americans and South Africans .
He went on: However, what we need very, very quickly indeed is clarity as to precisely what these proposals are. There is a touch of the shambolic about the way this is being handled and what is needed now is certainty.
Professor George Griffin, chair of the Government s Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens, said he was surprised that screening was being introduced after being led to believe it would not be.
He also described the tests as a very, very blunt instrument ,
Prof Griffin told BBC Radio 4 s The World At One: These decisions are very, very difficult to make.
It is somewhat surprising after, I think, we were all led to believe that the decision was not to screen.
Clearly there may have been more evidence which we were not privy to.
Of course one of the big things is that the United States has started screening and it might have been an idea to bring things into parallel with the United States.
He added: Most of the scientific community feel that the instrument is very, very blunt.
Speaking on a constituency visit to Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, today, Mr Cameron said the Government was taking all the steps we can to prevent an Ebola outbreak in the UK.
He added: What we do is listen to the medical advice and we act on that advice, and that s why we are introducing the screening processes at the appropriate ports and airports.
What we are focusing on as a country is taking action right across the board to deal with this problem at source.
David Mabey, professor of communicable diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the screening was a complete waste of time .
Firstly, there won t be anyone coming from these (West African) countries because all direct flights have been cancelled, he said. Are they going to screen everyone from Brussels, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam? That would lead to a lot of delays and disruption.
Secondly, why would anyone admit that they have been in contact with someone when they re in a hurry to get through immigration control when they arrive at the airport?
People will have been screened before getting on flights and may seem to be healthy if they re not yet showing symptoms.
And then what will they do if they think they do have Ebola? Lock them up in solitary confinement?
Prof Mabey said that, instead, the Government should be concentrating on increasing awareness of what people should do if they think they might be at risk.
Asked if he thought Ebola would reach the UK, he said: I think it s bound to happen. We have a lot of links with West Africa. There is lots of coming and going so I m sure there will be a few cases.
World Health Organisation (WHO) director of strategy Chris Dye said it was unlikely the screening would detect anyone with Ebola coming into the country.
The chances of someone with Ebola turning up in the UK is relatively small, Dr Dye told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
The chance of someone turning up in the UK showing symptoms of Ebola at the time is even smaller.
It potentially could prevent a few cases but I suspect the more important impact is that it will hugely increase awareness.
Downing Street said the tests will be introduced for passengers travelling from the main Ebola-affected regions in west Africa - Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea - where the death toll has reportedly risen to nearly 4,000, to give Britain an additional level of protection from the highly contagious virus.
The screening will involve assessing passengers recent travel history, with whom they have been in contact, and onward travel arrangements, as well as a possible medical assessment conducted by trained medical personnel.
The introduction of screening comes as a Briton died in Macedonia with symptoms similar to Ebola, although Public Health England said it was unlikely the death was caused by the virus.
A spokesman for Heathrow said the airport was working with Public Health England to implement the measures.
He said: We would like to reassure passengers that the Government assesses the risk of a traveller contracting Ebola to be low.
The welfare of our passengers and colleagues is always our main priority and we are working with Government to support the implementation of the additional screening measures.
A spokesman for Eurostar said staff did not yet know how the screening measures would be carried out.
He said: We are liaising with the authorities to understand the details. We re working with them to see how it will be implemented.
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