Passengers entering the UK from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, all countries at high risk of Ebola, would be screened at the border, the government announced yesterday.
The news came as a number of new suspected cases emerged outside west Africa, including a nurse in Australia and a British man in Macedonia.
UPDATE: The nurse in Australia has tested negative for the Ebola virus and Whitehall sourcs believe it is “very unlikely” that the British man died from the disease.
Travellers will be asked where they have arrived from and for a full history of possible contact with Ebola sufferers on arrival at Gatwick and Heathrow airports and at UK Eurostar terminals. They will be assessed by medical staff for signs of the deadly virus, quarantined if necessary and given advice about symptoms and signs to watch out for.
In a statement last night, a Downing street spokesperson said: “These measures will help to improve our ability to detect and isolate Ebola cases. However, it is important to stress that given the nature of this disease, no system could offer 100 per cent protection from non-symptomatic cases.
“It is important to remember that the overall risk to the public in the UK continues to be very low, and the UK has some of the best public health protection systems in the world.”
The spokesperson added that a national contingency planning exercise was currently underway in case the disease spread to the UK.
Confirming the screening process last night, a Heathrow airport spokesperson reiterated that the chance of infection in this country remains very low.
Travel shares took another hit in light of the news yesterday, with British Airways parent group IAG closing three per cent down.