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Authorities forced to respond to Ebola concerns

October 19, 2014

Fiji police: due home from Liberia.

Is Fiji ready for the Ebola epidemic?

The question is a fair one but not one Parliament is ready for – or wants to discuss.

An urgent question was filed yesterday by Fiji’s Opposition member, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, but it was rejected by the Speaker.

Lalabalavu

The epidemic is sweeping several West African countries, with new cases reported in the U.S. and Spain and Germany but there have been no reports of the virus in Fiji or anywhere near the Pacific.

Fiji police, however, are stationed as part of the United Nations peace keeping mission in Liberia, one of the hot spots for Ebola.

Fiji has now been forced to respond with the Assistant Health Minister, Veena Bhatnagar, saying safety measures have been put into place.

She says the Ministry mobilised a taskforce early in August so safety precautions are already in place .

“This multiagency technical advisory group which consisted of advisers from within the ministry, WHO, Defence Ministry, Foreign Affairs, Ports Authority of Fiji and most recently AFL have mobilised preparations at the boarders and hospitals in preparedness of any arrival from an Ebola affected country.”

But she also says measures are being stepped up with  training and workshops being held next week for health professionals.

Lalabalavu’s urgent question stated that:

Given the potential of the epidemic to worsen before it is expected to be brought under control, can the Minister for Health please inform the House on the following:

• Does the Ministry have in place any plans to create public awareness about the Ebola virus and what can be done to prevent it?

• What plans do we have to effectively isolate any suspect cases

• Has the Ministry started any training of Health personnel to handle cases while maintaining their own safety

• Do these plans include the establishment of an Ebola testing laboratory to enable quick results?

• Have our Border officials and airline personnel been briefed on this Virus and are they ready to conduct proper screening of visitors and returning residents?

• What plans have we got in place for screening our Police contingent when they return from Liberia which is the centre of the Ebola epidemic.

Fiji police have also undertaken not to send replacements to Liberia.

The Fiji Times quotes police spokesperson, Ana Naisoro, as saying the first lot of officers is expected back at the end of next month and the rest in May next year.

Last month the Health Ministry said the chances of Ebola entering the country were low but conceded if it did, it would be via an infected traveller.

source – c4.5; posted by Rusi Varani for SWM
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