Ebola Lockdown: British plan to send 3,000 UK troops into Sierra Leone to set up military blockades to restrict movement in attempt to stop the virus spreading

UK Daily Mail

18 October 2014

Thousands of UK troops would be sent to Sierra Leone to enforce a military lockdown under radical plans to defeat ebola being considered by Britain’s most senior Army officer.

General Sir Nick Carter is leading a review of the UK’s response to the virus, and could use 3,000 British soldiers to impose a blockade and restrict human movement in the African country.

Sir Nick, the Chief of the General Staff, will advise Ministers on proposals, including an increase in troop numbers and using Royal Navy ships to patrol its coastal waters.

The top-level review comes as charity Oxfam said a critical shortfall of Western military personnel in West Africa was in danger of putting lives at risk. It wants troops to deliver vital supplies and build treatment centres for victims.

But defence sources disclosed last night that options to be considered by Sir Nick go much further and include UK troops deploying to towns and villages deep inside Sierra Leone.

A source said: ‘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.’

Sir Nick, who led thousands of UK troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, is expected to deliver recommendations by the end of this week. Currently 750 British military personnel are committed to stamping out ebola. The UK has also sent a hospital ship and three helicopters.

Since the outbreak began more than 4,500 people have died from the disease. Experts fear the death toll could rise to a million by July next year.

In a further move, the Government’s health watchdog Public Health England last night released specific advice for pregnant women concerned about contracting ebola, saying research suggested there is ‘limited evidence’ they are at increased risk of severe illness, medical complications and death when infected.

It said: ‘Reported complications include spontaneous abortion and pregnancy-associated haemorrhage. Infants born to mothers who are in the terminal stage of disease are invariably infected.’

Meanwhile, the number of specialist beds available in the UK for ebola victims has been reduced following a legal row over building work at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Hospital.

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is withholding payments to the building company Laing O’Rourke Construction after claims that work on a £330million rebuilding project there is not up to standard.

Sir Leonard Fenwick, the trust’s chief executive, said: ‘It means we can’t move to the next stage and build the centre for infectious diseases.’ Laing O’Rourke declined to comment due to legal proceedings.