Ebola efforts 'gathering pace'
The international effort to tackle Ebola in Sierra Leone is "gathering pace", a senior British Army medic has said.
Around 100 soldiers from the 35 Squadron, 5 Medical Regiment have returned from a seven-week tour in the country and have trained around 4,200 health workers and volunteer hygienists about halting the spread of the disease.
They all returned safely from the 33C heat to the winter chill of Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire.
Their Commanding Officer Lieutenant Phil Carter, who went with the medics, said: "The operation out there and the various organisations that are working together is definitely gathering pace.
"We handed over to a UN organisation which is going to continue the training programme that we developed.
"There is still work to do to finish the Ebola crisis, but definitely there is a real feeling that all the different strands of effort are coming together to make this a really national response to the Ebola virus.
"We certainly found that people were very pleased to see us, and very grateful for the training that we were delivering."
Lt Col Carter said life in Freetown appeared normal, with shops open and people getting on with their lives.
The poster, TV and radio campaigns were prominent and getting the message across that anyone with symptoms should seek medical treatment immediately.
The Army medics delivered three-day courses, with the first session concentrating on Ebola awareness and measures that can be taken to stop the "fragile" virus spreading, such as the simple measure of using chlorinated water, he said.
Other sessions looked at use of protection equipment and decontamination drills to help healthworkers satay safe.
Lance Corporal Richard Blagg, 30, from Derby, said medics were apprehensive before the deployment.
"No-one knew what to expect," he said. "People were worried and we were going into the unknown.
"Once we got we realised we were well looked after at every single point.
"Everyone got into their role and got into the role and everyone felt safe."
He felt sure the operation would safe lives.
"The military mantra is that we do not really look for accolades and we don't look for praise about what we do, but I have got no doubt in my mind we have contributed to saving people's lives, whether directly or indirectly.
"The people are still catching it and still dying from it.
"As soon as these processes are put into place and people understand the whole things that we have contributed to out there, then the numbers should start dropping."