The Australian government will not send doctors or nurses to west Africa to help contain the Ebola crisis until it is certain “all of the risks are being properly managed”, the prime minister, Tony Abbott, has said.
Figures released on Saturday by the World Health Organisation show that more than 4,000 people have died in the Ebola epidemic that broke out in west Africa in March, out of a total of 8,399 registered cases. The death toll includes 233 health workers.
International health organisations such as Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) have criticised the Abbott government’s “underwhelming” response to the outbreak, which has included cash grants to MSF, the World Health Organisation and British front line efforts in Sierra Leone – but no Australian medical personnel.
Save the Children has called on the government to follow the lead of the Obama administration and send troops to help manage the response to the epidemic, which has claimed over 2,300 lives in Liberia alone.
But Abbott said on Sunday that the latest death toll would not change the government’s view on sending Australian health workers.
“We aren’t going to send Australian doctors and nurses into harm’s way without being absolutely confident that all of the risks are being properly managed. And at the moment we cannot be confident that that is the case,” the prime minister said.