Island quarantine for Philippine UN troops from Ebola-hit Liberia

MANILA - More than a hundred Filipino UN troops returning from Ebola-hit West Africa were swiftly packed off to an isolated island Wednesday as part of extreme measures to protect the Philippines from the deadly virus.

The 108 peacekeepers, who had just finished a 10-month tour of Liberia under United Nations command, arrived by chartered plane at a restricted section of Manila airport Wednesday evening.

The uniformed soldiers were immediately sent to a naval base near Manila where they will travel on to Caballo, a tiny uninhabited island at the mouth of Manila Bay that will be their temporary home for the next 21 days.

None of the soldiers have tested positive for the virus, but they have been prevented from physical contact with anyone in the Philippines and are being quarantined for the incubation period of the virus.

"We were asked to make this sacrifice for the safety of our countrymen," one of the soldiers' wives told AFP as she watched live television footage of the arrival with her 3-year-old daughter from a nearby air force base.

Almost 5,000 people have been killed by Ebola mostly in West Africa, according to official data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), which says the true scale of the epidemic could be much greater.

The virus kills around 70 per cent of its victims, often shutting down their organs and causing unstoppable bleeding.

More than 10 million Filipinos working abroad and the Philippines has said there is a serious threat of the epidemic hitting the Asian country.

The government has also ruled that anyone coming from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone - the countries most affected with the epidemic - must undergo 21 days of isolation.

Thelma Barrera, psychosocial programme chief for the health department's National Centre for Mental Health, said the soldiers will be put up in air-conditioned tents with access to recreational and telecommunications facilities.

"They (the facilities) were set up to make it as comfortable as can be for them," she told AFP.