The Australian-managed Ebola Treatment Centre at Hastings Airfield, near Freetown in Sierra Leone, will commence operations tonight.Australia is now managing the Centre following the completion of construction by the United Kingdom.

Patients will be referred to the Centre and in line with best practice it will commence operations with five beds. Operations will be gradually scaled up to full capacity at 100 beds under strict guidelines to ensure infection control procedures are working effectively and trained staff and safety practices are in place.

The Centre is currently staffed by the first cohort of Australian clinical staff, alongside trained Sierra Leonean personnel. A second group of Australians left for Sierra Leone on the weekend.

Ebola transmission rates remain very high in Sierra Leone, especially in and around Freetown, where the Hastings Airfield Ebola Treatment Centre is located. Treatment and isolation capacity continues to be a critical component of the international response.

I welcome a recent agreement with New Zealand, under which New Zealand will provide up to 24 clinical personnel to work in the Centre. This joint commitment demonstrates the strength of our relationship and the importance of a coordinated international response to the Ebola outbreak.

I also announce additional support for the establishment of the Centre, bringing the current contribution for the Centre to $25 million. I welcome New Zealand’s contribution to the facility of NZ$2 million. Australia’s total contribution to the Ebola response is now at $45 million.

The Australian Government continues to advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, due to the ongoing and widespread transmission of Ebola. Further information is available on smartraveller.gov.au.

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