Key weighs sending Kiwi medics to help with Ebola crisis

STACEY KIRK IN ALBANY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Last updated 17:44 01/11/2014

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The Government would require an absolute guarantee New Zealand medical staff had swift access to top Ebola clinics in Africa, before it sends any contingent to support international efforts to stop the contagion.

Speaking to media during Anzac commemorations in Albany, Western Australia, today, Prime Minister John Key confirmed he had discussed a possible New Zealand and Australian response to the Ebola crisis with his Australian counterpart Tony Abbott. 

"Obviously if we were to send New Zealand workers, who volunteered to go to be part of the campaign to get on top of the Ebola virus, we'd have to be absolutely satisfied that we could evacuate them to a medical facility if required. 

"The Brits, for instance, have ensured that the people that they've sent have access to that sort of medical facility, and we would have to have complete confidence that we would also have access to a similar type of facility otherwise we wouldn't do it," Key said. 

He and Abbott discussed possible responses; talking about whether it was necessary, and what constructive role each country might play.

No decision had yet been made, but Key said cabinet would be discussing a response in coming weeks.  

"We're working our way through that issue. there's certainly been a request from the international request for our support. New Zealand is likely to have some people who would be willing to go, we wouldn't force people to go." 

Some medical staff from New Zealand had already travelled to and returned from Ebola-affected countries. 

Earlier in the week Key confirmed the Government would consider whether to follow Australia's lead in temporarily closing New Zealand borders to people from Ebola-affected West African nations.

Under present practice, if a person said they had travelled to that part of the world in the last 30 days they would be separated and asked about their health, and assessed for symptoms.

If they were not displaying any health issues they were free to enter the country but their situation was closely monitored.

Since August 10, 74 people from those West African countries had come through New Zealand borders.

Three people had been on temperature monitoring but were all cleared. No one has required laboratory testing for the disease.

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