Hayes in the House by John Hayes MP
Recent events have shown what a hazardous place the world is, and we cannot pretend that the dangers from elsewhere are not our concern.
British citizens have been murdered by jihadists in the Middle East, many of whom have travelled there from all over the world; Russian separatists have blown up a plane over Ukraine killing 298 people from 10 countries, including 10 Britons.
The nature of the interconnected modern world cannot be ignored; the notion that, in response to these horrors, we could retreat to our borders and seek safety by merely distancing ourselves from such events is a dangerous falsehood. Pulling up the drawbridge is not an option; turning a blind eye to the problems of the world and wishing they went away is simply not possible.
Perhaps nothing demonstrates these global challenges – and our response to them - more than the terrifying spread of Ebola. This horrific disease, with immense potential for human suffering, has claimed nearly 5,000 lives in recent months in the West African countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
Diseases, of course, don’t stop at borders or checkpoints, and so Ebola has spread to Spain and the United States. Just this past week the Chief Medical Officer pointed out that it is likely that the UK will see cases in the coming months. Chillingly, Ebola kills 70 per cent of those infected, and there is no cure or vaccine; the focus must instead be on control and prevention.
The first duty of the Government is protecting the British people. We are doing that by joining the international effort to halt the rise of Ebola in West Africa, thereby preventing it from reaching the UK in the first place. Hundreds of NHS staff have volunteered to go to Sierra Leone to combat the disease, and the Royal Navy have helped construct a large treatment facility in the country, with army medics assisting in training health workers locally. Such people who put the vulnerable ahead of their narrow personal interests are our generation’s heroes and heroines.
British experts are helping to ensure robust exit screening at airports in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, identifying those who are unwell before they leave these countries. At home, passengers arriving into Heathrow, Gatwick and other major ports of entry from infected countries are being screened, and doctors, nurses, pharmacists and NHS 111 call service staff are being trained to help with Ebola-related enquiries.
We cannot say for certain how far this dreadful disease will proliferate, and we cannot guarantee that Britain will be immune – but we must and will be prepared. As with the other complex cross-border issues of our times, we cannot shirk our duty to confront Ebola by waiting until the epidemic is with us here.
Our duty as a nation is to stand tall by offering all we can to fight the menace of disease and the scourge of suffering far from our shores.