Australia doesn’t need to worry unduly about the Ebola virus, Bill Shorten says.
Queensland MP Bob Katter’s comment that a nurse put the country at risk of Ebola through her “humanitarian ambitions” in west Africa were unfortunate, and the “real hero” deserves a pat on the back, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says.
Mr Shorten was responding to Mr Katter’s comments on Thursday that Australians returning from west African countries should “go to a quarantine holiday resort” until they can be cleared of the virus.
The warning came as screening measures were being ramped up at international airports around the nation – despite the Health Department saying the risk of an Ebola outbreak remains low – and as it emerged 11 Australians had been tested and cleared.
Cairns nurse and Red Cross worker Sue Ellen Kovack is being held in isolation and under close observation until health authorities are sure the 57-year-old, who recently returned from Sierra Leone, via Casablanca and Dubai, Perth, Melbourne and on to Cairns.
“There were some unfortunate comments made by an Australian politician in some ways criticising her for putting herself in the position to risk Ebola,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.
“I just want to say to this nurse if you’re listening, I understand and Labor understands that not every hero wears a uniform,” Mr Shorten said.
“Our nurses and our medical staff, be they in Australia or people courageously volunteering and doing work overseas, they deserve a pat on the back – they are real heroes and don’t deserve any criticism.”
He said while Ebola was a topic of concern in the community, Australian health officials and the government have arrangements in place.
“People shouldn’t be unduly worried,” he said.
Mr Katter on Friday doubled down on his earlier comments, and said Australians returning from west African countries should “go to a quarantine holiday resort” until they can be cleared of the virus.
“They can have a beaut, terrific holiday there for three weeks when they come home and it will be a very nice thing for them,” said Mr Katter, whose electorate of Kennedy includes the southern area of Cairns and the Cairns airport.
Australia’s peak medical body has slammed Mr Katter’s comments.
As of Friday, travellers arriving in Australia from west African countries will be interviewed and screened for symptoms, but very few people travel to Australia from west Africa, with no direct commercial flights from any of the affected countries.
The Health Department says the risk of an Ebola outbreak remains low.