Ebola volunteers

Experience gained by British soldiers who were sent out to combat the Ebola pandemic in Sierra Leone has helped them to build a 4,000-bed field hospital in East London in nine days.

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, Colonel Ashleigh Boreham from the UK’s Army Medical Services led a British team that built six treatments centres in Sierra Leone, funded by the UK government.

Col Boreham, 54, told the Independent newspaper about the British army’s experience in dealing with epidemics.
“The parallels are the experience we had from working with partners in West Africa during the Ebola crisis.”

Comparing this to combat operations, he said: “The challenges are the same, the threats are in a different way.

“It is more the threat one can’t see,” added Col Boreham who, having spent 27 years in the army, is about to retire.
By November 2014 there were 900 British military personnel in Sierra Leone working with the Sierra Leonean army and non-governmental organisations in combating the highly contagious disease.

A year later the country was declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organisation.
In East London, Col Boreham’s team was assisted by members of the Royal Anglian Regiment, whose troops were in Sierra Leone on a training mission.

Lieutenant Michael Andrews told the Independent: “We were brought back about two weeks early.

“Initially we were told we were coming back because they didn’t want us to be stuck in Sierra Leone.
“Obviously with the flights all being cancelled, they didn’t want us to be stranded.

“When I arrived back, we were put on readiness to assist when required.”
The massive Excel Exhibition Centre has been converted into the fully functioning NHS Nightingale that can be expanded to admit up to 4,000 coronavirus patients.

It has become the largest hospital in the UK, dwarfing the next biggest, St George’s Hospital in south west London with 1,300 beds.

Two other exhibition centres in Birmingham and Manchester have also been earmarked by the UK government to serve as emergency hospitals that will each provide 500 beds with the capacity of 2,000 and 1,000 beds respectively.

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