South Korea plans to send its first batch of 10 medical personnel to Ebola-hit Sierra Leone in mid-December as part of global efforts to contain the deadly virus, the government said Wednesday.
The team of four doctors and six nurses will depart Seoul on Dec. 13 for Worcestor, north of London, where they will receive safety education from Dec. 15-20, according to a joint statement by the foreign, health and defense ministries.
They will then leave for Sierra Leone a day later and begin full-fledged work on Dec. 29 at an Ebola clinic being built by Britain in Goderich, near the capital of Freetown, after weeklong on-the-job training there.
Seoul and London are set to clinch a preliminary deal soon over the dispatch of medical workers and their roles.
The statement also said South Korea plans to dispatch a total of 30 medical workers in three batches to the Ebola clinic.
"By taking into account the situation there, Seoul will decide at next week's meeting how long the first group will be dispatched for," Oh Young-ju, director-general at the foreign ministry's development cooperation bureau, told a press briefing.
She added that each batch of medical workers is likely to be sent to the African country for a minimum of four weeks.
The move came as the 12-member advance team of government officials and civilian experts has recently wrapped up a two-week field study on Sierra Leone for a future dispatch of medical workers.
In October, South Korean President Park Geun-hye announced the plan to send a group of doctors and nurses there to lend support to global efforts to contain the deadly virus. Ebola is estimated to have killed more than 5,400 people since December last year.
The government said that if South Korean medical workers are infected with the virus, they will be transported to hospitals in Europe that are capable of treating Ebola via civilian and military aircraft run by the European Union.
The idea of transporting infected medical workers to Seoul has been dismissed by taking into account safety concerns and the long flight time, it added.
The 10 medical workers will be quarantined in South Korea for 21 days, the incubation period of the virus, when they return home.
Seoul has said that the team of volunteer medical workers was picked based on their level of expertise, adding that a higher-than-expected number of medical personnel has applied.
Seoul has so far provided US$5.6 million to global efforts to fight the Ebola virus. (Yonhap)