In October 2014, UK introduced its Ebola screening process at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports and Eurostar train terminals. The government had initially maintained that the checks would be impractical, however announced the enhanced screening for travelers arriving from West Africa, where the deadly virus has claimed more than 3,800 lives. This announcement was made amidst mounting pressures, after USA declared advanced Ebola screening at five major Airports.
The government however did foresee the troubles involved in screening
and wanted to follow the advice of the WHO and remain committed
screening people before they board the flight to UK from the affected
areas. Government had warned that Ebola screening would be disruptive, expensive, and potentially open to legal action and will still not be a complete fool proof process. However, amidst all speculations Government gave in to the mounting pressure and announced to implement the screening program, which will cost them more than £9 Million.
Only a few months down the line, fears of Government that the Screening Systems will add complexity and may not be efficient enough, have been proved true. Ebola screening at Heathrow has identified just five people with possible signs of the virus during two months in operation. All five suspects turned out not to have the deadly disease after being sent on to hospital. But the screening system, which is set to cost £9 Million, failed to spot nurse Pauline Cafferkey, despite her complaining of a fever. The 39-year-old is now fighting for her life after contracting the virus. She travelled through Heathrow on her journey back to Scotland from Sierra Leone. It later emerged that officials at Heathrow had allowed her to board a connecting flight to Glasgow even though she had complained of a fever.
Following this Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that officials
had introduced more rigorous checks for doctors and nurses returning to the UK following volunteer work. Until recently, the screening only
involved them having their temperature taken and filling-in a questionnaire about whether they have come into contact with patients.
But from now on, anyone who thinks they are mildly unwell will be kept on and made to undergo further checks even if their temperature seems normal. Officials will also seek advice from tropical disease experts
and monitor the patient closely for a number of hours.
Er Jigna Shah [BE, MBA]