Australia to give $20m to help run Ebola treatment centre

THE Abbott Government will fund a $20 million Ebola treatment centre in Sierra Leone, but has not backed officially sending Australians to help.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the contract to Aspen Medical to run the United Kingdom-built 100-bed centre.

Mr Abbott said most of the staff would be "locally engaged" but could include some Australians, as part of a wider voluntary international medical team.

More than 100 Australians have already volunteered to help in West Africa, but Mr Abbott will not demand Australian health workers travel there.

Mr Abbott insisted the Ebola outbreak, which has now claimed more than 4900 lives, remained a health emergency, and not a security or economic emergency.

He said while the government would not be sending Australian staff to help, Aspen would work with willing medicos who would be paid for their work, but had to volunteer given the risks involved.

Opposition Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the announcement was welcome, but said it was possible no Australians would be involved in the response.

She said there were many "courageous" people willing to go to help, but it was difficult to understand why highly-qualified Australians were not being accepted.

The government's $20 million budget allocation comes on top of the original $18 million pledged, as well as a further $4 million to help with the United Nations response and train officials across the Pacific Islands, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, in preparation of a potential outbreak closer to Australia.

- APN NEWSDESK



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