Korea prepares to send 10 medics to fight Ebola

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Korea prepares to send 10 medics to fight Ebola

The Korean government announced Wednesday that it will send an emergency response team of four doctors and six nurses to Sierra Leone next month to combat the deadly Ebola virus which has claimed the lives of thousands in the region.

The ministries of Foreign Affairs, National Defense and Health and Welfare held a joint press conference yesterday in Seoul to report the results of an advance team’s recent field study on how to provide support to combat Ebola in Sierra Leone.

This first emergency response team, comprised of doctors and nurses selected from open recruitment by the health ministry, will offer medical support at the British Ebola treatment center in Goderich, in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.

They will depart from Korea on Dec. 13 and will receive safety training in Worcester, just outside London, between Dec. 15 and 20, the ministries said in a joint statement.

The medical team is scheduled to arrive at the clinic in Goderich on Dec. 21, where they will receive training on location for a week before commencing official duties from Dec. 29.

The Goderich Ebola treatment center, with 100 sickbeds, is scheduled to be in operation on Dec. 15, one of six being constructed by the British government as part of the effort to stop the spread of the disease, to be run by different international medical organizations.

The Korean government plans on sending three 10-member emergency response teams to Sierra Leone.

A 12-member advance team was sent to Sierra Leone from Nov. 13 to 25 to study the logistics of dispatching a Korean medical support team.

Based on the advanced team’s trip to the Great Britain and Sierra Leone, the ministries said they have “thoroughly reviewed the Ebola situation in Sierra Leone, the working environment and tasks for our medical personnel, and their assignment at Ebola treatment centers.”

Officials indicated that the situation in Sierra Leone is more stable than earlier anticipated.

The government is also reviewing dispatching another small support team comprised of foreign ministry and other government officials to support the medical team and coordinate with the Sierra Leone government and United Nations officials.

Korea is also planning to reach a memorandum of understanding with the United Kingdom for cooperation between the two countries in providing medical support to combat Ebola, the foreign ministry said.

The government said that if the Korean medics become infected with Ebola, it will enlist the help of U.S. carrier Phoenix Air’s civilian air ambulance service to evacuate them, a measure used by European Union doctors.

“We are in the process of establishing a comprehensive safety measure in case our medical personnel gets infected with Ebola,” said the Foreign Ministry, including a quarantine period.

Seoul has so far provided a total of $5.6 million for the global effort to fight the Ebola virus.

More than 15,000 people have been infected by Ebola, mostly in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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