Judith Bosse, (left to right), Assistant Deputy Minister at the Public Health Agency of Canada, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, Health Minister Rona Ambrose and Dr. Gregory Taylor, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, watch a nurse demonstrate how to remove protective clothing after treating a hypothetical Ebola patient. Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press
Reservists and troops from Britain and Canada have left for Sierra Leone to help in the battle to contain the Ebola virus outbreak.
British officials said Saturday that 16 reservists and 100 regular military personnel left on a morning flight from the Brize Norton military airbase.
Officials say Canadian military personnel — about 40 nurses, doctors, physicians’ assistants, medics and support workers — are on the same flight. The Canadians have been in the U.K. for the past two weeks to train for the mission alongside U.K. military personnel.
They will take over a field hospital providing treatment to health-care workers in Sierra Leone who have become infected with the often lethal virus.
The group has received special training in how to operate wearing protective gear.
Defence officials say Britain has roughly 800 military personnel in Sierra Leone. They are building facilities expected to provide 700 beds for treating people with the virus.
The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon continued his tour of Ebola-affected countries in West Africa on Saturday.
The three countries hit hardest by Ebola have now recorded 7,373 deaths, up from 6,900 on Wednesday, according to WHO figures posted online late Friday. A total of 392 of the new deaths were in Sierra Leone, where Ebola is spreading the fastest.
The new totals include confirmed, probable and suspected Ebola deaths. The WHO says there have also been six Ebola deaths in Mali, eight in Nigeria and one in the United States.
The total number of cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia now stands at 19,031, up from 18,569.
Ban arrived in Guinea, where the outbreak's first cases were confirmed back in March, on Saturday after touring Liberia and Sierra Leone on Friday. After meeting with President Alpha Conde, he expressed concern about the situation in the country's southeast forest region, where he said the number of infected people "seems to continue to grow." The region borders Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, and Ban called for cross-border collaboration to bring the disease under control.
He urged all Guineans to commit themselves to eradicating Ebola, saying that the UN and its partners "are there to help you."
"It has never been so important to work together," he said.
Guinea has recorded 2,453 Ebola deaths and 1,550 cases, according to the WHO. This past week, officials in Conakry, the capital, announced a ban on New Year's Eve celebrations such as fireworks displays and beach gatherings in a bid to curtail transmission.
Ban was expected to travel to Mali Saturday evening.