Berlin: Germany has commissioned a special medical evacuation aircraft for transporting health workers infected with Ebola virus from the West African nations devastated by the epidemic.
An Airbus A-340 passenger aircraft of the German carrier Lufthansa has been transformed into a flying clinic to transport patients out of Ebola-infested West African countries to be treated en route.
The aircraft christened "Robert Koch" after the country's renowned microbiologist and physician has on board a special isolation chamber for treating highly contagious Ebola patients during the flight.
It also provides two other isolation chambers for the medical personnel attending the patients and for the crew. All three chambers have separate exhaust systems, which will make sure that the virus will not spread inside the plane.
The German carrier, which spent weeks converting the former passenger aircraft, said in a statement that the plane is "the world's only evacuation facility for highly contagious patients," and would offer more comprehensive care than the smaller jets that have been used to transport Ebola patients in recent months.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who took delivery of the aircraft from Lufthansa together with Health Minister Hermann Groehe at Berlin's Tegel airport on Thursday, paid tributes to the voluntary health workers who risked their lives to go to West Africa and to treat the Ebola patients.
"We must make sure that those infected can return home and during the flight they can receive the best medical care. This aircraft enables us to give this assurance," he told a news conference at the airport.
"People infected with the virus are still dying in West Africa and the threat of its infection spreading to other countries in the region is far from over.
"The international community should admit that it was slow in responding to the Ebola crisis in West Africa," Steinmeier said.
Besides the German government, Lufthansa and the Robert Koch Institute are involved in the project.
The German government has so far pledged more than 100 million euros to help tackle the disease.
Germany will make available the aircraft to other counties, a statement said.
The biggest Ebola epidemic on record has claimed around 5,700 lives in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since the beginning of the year, according to the World Health Organisation.