President Barack Obama unveiled his plan to tackle the Ebola crisis in West Africa on Tuesday, promising to do far more to tackle the deadly virus he said could result in “hundreds of thousands of people infected” without US intervention.
“More than 2,400 men, women, and children are known to have died and we strongly suspect that the actual death toll is higher than that,” Obama said in a speech at the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. “Hospitals, clinics, and the few treatment centres that do exist have been completely overwhelmed.”
The president was particularly dire in how he described the threat Ebola poses to the entire world.
“Patients are being turned away. And people are literally dying in the streets. Here’s the hard truth: In West Africa, Ebola is now an epidemic of the likes we have not seen before. It is spiraling out of control. It is getting worse. It is spreading faster and exponentially,” he said.
“If the outbreak is not stopped now, we could be looking at hundreds of thousands of people infected.”
Obama, who’s currently facing multiple international crises, has been criticised for an allegedly lackluster response to the Ebola virus, according to Reuters. But on Tuesday he vowed a “major increase in our response” — both in speed and scope.
“We know that if we take the proper steps, we can save lives. But we have to act fast. We can’t dawdle on this one. We have to move with force and make sure that we are catching this as best we can given that it has already broken out in ways that we have not seen before,” Obama said.
Among the steps Obama vowed to take: a military outpost in Liberia “to support civilian efforts across the region.”
According to the White House, the US may commit up to 3,000 troops to West Africa. The US also hopes to address the virus’ economic and social “ripple effects,” Obama said.
Obama stressed, however, that experts do not expect a major outbreak in the US.
“First and foremost, I want the American people to know that … the chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low,” Obama said. “We’ve been taking the necessary precautions.”
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