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Defence Secretary visits RFA Argus ahead of Ebola mission

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Personnel have been preparing to sail to Sierra Leone as part of UK’s response to the Ebola outbreak.

The Defence Secretary has praised the professionalism and expertise of military and civilian personnel preparing to sail with Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ship Argus to Sierra Leone as part of the UK’s leading role in response to the Ebola outbreak.

Michael Fallon visited the aviation support ship in Falmouth, Cornwall, today, 14 October, and met members of the Royal Navy, RFA and Royal Marines who will deploy to West Africa later this week.

The ship will take 3 Merlin helicopters and aircrew and engineers from 820 Naval Air Squadron. The ship will also be able to facilitate the rapid transport of Army medical teams and aid experts, deployed to help tackle the Ebola virus.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus
Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus alongside at Falmouth Docks, Cornwall [Picture: Petty Officer Airman (Photographer) Paul A'Barrow, Crown copyright]

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

Britain is leading the effort in Sierra Leone and everything I’ve seen today confirms how well equipped we are to do that.

The UK Armed Forces have so far played a pivotal role in delivering Britain’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone with our engineers and planners working alongside local building contractors on the construction of Ebola treatment centres and healthcare facilities.

The imminent deployment of RFA Argus is another way in which the British military’s expertise can be used to support the Government of Sierra Leone as together we tackle the spread of this appalling disease.

The deployment of RFA Argus increases the UK’s contribution to the fight against Ebola which is being coordinated by the Department for International Development.

RFA Argus Executive Officer, Chief Officer Shane Wood checks the first load of medical supplies
RFA Argus Executive Officer, Chief Officer Shane Wood checks the first load of medical supplies to arrive for RFA Argus [Picture: Petty Officer Airman (Photographer) Paul A'Barrow, Crown copyright]

So far more than 300 military engineers and planners have deployed as part of the UK task force, with the first staff arriving in late August.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

A massive thanks to our British troops who have been working alongside humanitarian colleagues and Sierra Leoneans to help defeat Ebola.

The support of RFA Argus and the 3 Royal Navy Merlin helicopters will be invaluable as we continue to battle this terrible disease.

The UK continues to lead the international response, with a large team on the ground and regular aid flights delivering essential supplies to control and defeat the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.

In the coming weeks more than 200 military staff will also be deployed to run and staff the World Health Organisation-led Ebola training facility that will assist in the training of healthcare workers, logisticians and hygiene specialists who are needed to staff the Ebola treatment centres.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus
Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Argus has a fully-equipped hospital including critical care and high-dependency units (library image) [Picture: Petty Officer Airman (Photographer) Gaz Armes, Crown copyright]

Defence’s total contribution will amount to 750 personnel. The UK’s treatment centres will provide direct medical care for up to 8,800 Ebola patients over 6 months.

Captain David Eagles, Commanding Officer of RFA Argus said:

RFA Argus is flexible and can be adapted to transport large amounts of equipment very quickly.

It therefore makes her the ideal vessel for a mission such as this, where her unique capabilities and experience will see us able to provide much needed supplies and expertise to the people of Sierra Leone.

I am confident that our people will have the support and extensive training they will need to make a positive contribution to the efforts to tackle Ebola.