China to quarantine Ebola doctors returning from West Africa

Beijing (AFP) - China will quarantine medical staff who work with Ebola patients in West Africa for 21 days after they return from duty, a senior health official said Monday.

Doctors returning to China will be subjected to a battery of tests before they enter the observation period, said He Qinghua, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's Bureau for Disease Control and Prevention.

"As these doctors are responsible for the testing of the virus, on their return to China they will be put under a 21 day quarantine period to be supervised by local community service centres," He said at a press briefing.

It was not clear whether medical personnel would be allowed to spend their quarantine at home, or be required to stay in secure isolation units.

Any Chinese medical staff who developed symptoms would be immediately sent to a designated hospital, he added.

Mandatory quarantine in the US has sparked controversy after a nurse who had treated patients in Sierra Leone fought for the right to leave her home. She had previously tested negative for the virus.

US troops who have worked in West Africa will also be subject to quarantine while Australia has closed its borders to citizens from the three worst-hit countries.

Almost 5,000 people have been killed by the virus in the current outbreak, according to data from the World Health Organization, which has recorded more than 13,000 cases but admits the real number of infections and deaths could be much higher.

China has sent 30 medical staff to West Africa and plans to send hundreds more in the coming weeks. An elite People's Liberation Army unit has also been sent to build a 100-bed treatment centre in Liberia.