David Cameron said he would consider a quarantine system for returning Ebola health workers if it was recommended by the Government’s chief medical officer.
It came as the condition of British nurse Pauline Cafferkey was said to be deteriorating. The 39-year-old, who is being treated in isolation at the Royal Free Hospital in north London, is in a critical condition, the hospital said.
The Scottish public health nurse was one of a team of 30 medical volunteers deployed to Sierra Leone by the UK Government in November and had been working with Save the Children at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Kerry Town.
After returning to Heathrow Airport on December 28 she was given the all-clear to fly to Glasgow where she lives. The following morning she was diagnosed with Ebola and placed in isolation at a Glasgow hospital before being flown south.
The Prime Minister told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that Ebola was “the thing uppermost in my mind” with Pauline Cafferkey in hospital.
Asked whether airport screening is failing, he said: “Her temperature was taken several times but then she was allowed to go on and travel to Scotland and what I have said very clearly is we should have a precautionary principle in place.
“If you are still in doubt, if there’s uncertainty, there’s proper arrangements for you to go to the Northwick Park Hospital in Middlesex to be observed and to have further tests there before going further.
“If we need to change further, if the chief medical officer says we need a system of quarantine or anything like that, then we should put that in place. But it is important to listen to the medical experts and then make the decision.”
Pauline Cafferkey was being treated with blood from a survivor and an unproven, experimental antiviral drug.
She is the second Briton to test positive and the first to do so on UK soil after nurse William Pooley contracted Ebola while volunteering in Sierra Leone in August before getting the all-clear after treatment at the Royal Free Hospital.