Australia's Political Parties Split Over Ebola Response As Meeting Considers Strengthening Protocols

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The federal Government and the ALP have split over whether Australia should send people to Africa to assist with the Ebola epidemic sweeping across the continent.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek is calling for the Australian government to make it easier to let volunteers head to West Africa to assist, but the Coalition says sending Australian care workers there would be “irresponsible”.

Speaking on breakfast TV today, Plibersek said that the Government’s $18 million offer of support was less than what one philanthropist had donated to the crisis.

“We’ve got skilled Australians, who’ve trained for many years to provide exactly the kind of assistance that West Africa is crying out for and our government is saying that they won’t assist them to go there,” she said.

In response immigration minister Scott Morrison said the idea went against the advice of experts.

“Should we be directing people to be put in harm’s way with no credible extraction plan?” he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is estimating that more than a million people could be infected by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for a review of hospital procedures following new cases of Ebola in the United States.

Speaking on ABC’s Lateline last night health minister Peter Dutton said he will join discussions with the AMA today and and a panel will look at the latest advice provided by the WHO.

“I think we should be assured that we have the best response possible for a developed country. There are lessons to be learned out of Texas and indeed Spain, and we need to look at the training that’s provided to the nurses and to the doctors that are using the personal protective equipment,” he said.

“We are as prepared as any developed nation to deal with this virus and the risk to our country is very, very low.”

Dutton said that at this time Australia cannot provide in-country support for West Africa.

Meanwhile, The Philippines, which has around 3000 Filipino workers in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone helping combat the disease, has implemented a 21-day screening program before people are allowed to return home, as well as another 21-day period of observation.

Three weeks is the incubation period for the disease.

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