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Charlie Flanagan has been in Europe to discuss how to fight Ebola

EU ministers have callled for ‘united, coordinated, and increased efforts’ to fight the virus.

Image: European Council Newsroom

Updated 6.41pm

EU FOREIGN MINISTERS have agreed to step up efforts to contain Ebola to prevent it becoming a global threat, including ensuring proper care for international health workers.

“A united, coordinated and increased effort is needed in order to contain the outbreak,” the 28 ministers said in a statement, adding that affected and neighbouring countries must be given “the necessary and appropriate assistance”.

Their conclusions will be taken up Thursday and Friday at an EU leaders summit in Brussels where the fight against Ebola will once again dominate proceedings.

The foreign ministers agreed the European Commission should “guarantee appropriate care for international health responders,” including the option of medical evacuation to ensure frontline staff get the best care for a disease which has neither vaccine nor cure.

Speaking after the meeting, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said Ireland has been “very active” in this area.

“Today was all about coordination,” he told reporters.

“We discussed a range of issues one of which was the safety and protection and guarantees that can be given to professionals, experts and health workers who are on site in Western Africa.

It was agreed there will be a coordinated effort on that, every protection will be given so as to ensure the welfare and safety and health.

This has been a key issue in trying to boost the number of foreign medical workers in efforts to contain Ebola which has so far claimed more than 4,500 lives in the worst affected countries — Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

The ministers also said there was a need to set up a pool of volunteer health experts from EU states “for quick and targeted deployment in health crises”.

Additionally, the EU should target aid to affected countries so as to boost their own defences against the disease, the statement said.

Warning that the “epidemic continues to grow exponentially,” the foreign ministers called on the international community to meet the $1.0 billion sought by the UN.

The EU said it had put up some €500 million, aiming to support governments in the affected countries in efforts to ease the impact on their economies and essential services.

Ahead of the talks, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the bloc should consider sending “a civilian EU mission” to west Africa.

Liberia Ebola West Africa Health workers carry the body of a woman suspected of contracting the Ebola virus in Bomi county situated on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia. Source: AP/Press Association Images

“This would offer a platform to (EU) member states” to send medical staff to the region, he said at a health forum in Berlin.

One EU diplomat said Britain — which already has a navy ship bound for Sierra Leone laden with medical staff and supplies — hoped to “galvanise EU action on Ebola”.

“There is a real sense that this is a tipping point and we must get to grips with it now,” said the diplomat. “If we can deal with it in the country, we don’t have to deal with it at home.”

A global UN appeal for nearly $1 billion (€785 billion) has so far fallen short, with only $385.9 million given by governments and agencies, and a further $225.8 million promised.

Nurse tests negative 

The political move comes as Madrid announced on Sunday that Teresa Romero, a nurse hospitalised on 6 October, has tested negative for the virus.

The 44-year-old will have to undergo a second test before she can officially be declared free of Ebola, the Spanish government said.

Romero contracted the tropical fever after caring for two Ebola patients who died at Madrid’s Carlos III hospital, in the first known case of transmission outside Africa.

Earlier today, the HSE ruled out Ebola in the case of a woman taken to the Mater Hospital today.

The woman was taken from a house in Tyrrelstown, Dublin 15 this morning and brought with a police escort to the Mater Hospital, with witnesses reporting that an ambulance carrying paramedics in protective suits was seen in Dublin traffic.

“The time for talking is over”

The worst-ever outbreak of the deadly virus has so far killed more than 4,500 people, almost all in west Africa, with close to 2,500 deaths registered in worst-hit Liberia.

Isolated cases among health workers in the US and Europe have sparked fear that the epidemic could turn global and prompted Western countries to ramp up their response.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said a generation of Africans were at risk of “being lost to economic catastrophe” because of the crisis, warning that the “time for talking or theorising is over”.

“This fight requires a commitment from every nation that has the capacity to help — whether that is with emergency funds, medical supplies or clinical expertise,” the Nobel laureate said in an open letter to the world published by the BBC Sunday.

The virus, for which there is currently no licensed treatment or vaccine, spreads via contact with bodily fluids.

Some countries have managed to get a handle on the outbreak, with Africa’s most populous nation Nigeria declared free of Ebola today after 42 days without registering any new infections.

© – AFP 2014, additional reporting by Nicky Ryan. Originally published 8.18am

Read: “We can’t give in to Ebola hysteria” – Obama >

Read: Ebola could be the ‘humanitarian disaster of our generation’ >

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