Britain's Ebola screening plans descended into chaos on its first day today after people flying to the UK from high risk countries revealed the checks are not compulsory.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said airline passengers from West Africa must be checked for symptoms 'to make our country safe' and warned the epidemic could be as deadly as Aids.
He also warned Britain should expect up to ten cases by Christmas as screening of passengers from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where 4,000 have died from Ebola, started at Heathrow.
But travellers at Terminal One this morning said the system is a 'complete joke' because they were either not checked at all, told it was optional or had to seek out medical staff themselves.
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Passengers being screened at Heathrow, as enhanced screening for Ebola begins at Britain's biggest airport
This photograph issued by Public Health England shows a passenger completing an interview at Heathrow
Public Health England, which is carrying out the checks, said today that the six months of planned screening will cost £9million
Travellers at Terminal One this morning said the system is a 'complete joke' because they were either not checked at all, told it was optional or had to seek out medical staff themselves
After the complaints the Department of Health confirmed that screening travellers at major entry points into UK is not mandatory unless they 'show symptoms of the virus'.
Public Health England, which is carrying out the checks, said today that the six months of planned screening will cost £9million.
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Sorious Samura who flew in from Liberia this morning, said he had decided to volunteer to be screened and was not made to take the questionnaire and temperature check.
The documentary maker had been making a film about the deadly virus in Liberia and arrived at the London hub this morning from a connecting flight from Brussels.
And he said checks and precautions were more strict in the west African state than those he met at Britain's borders.
He said: 'It was disappointing. I think in a situation like this, given the fear that is being spread, I would expect a mandatory screening.
'I was told it is up to you if you want to be screened or not.
'Having seen it first hand I think it was a bit lax here. To be honest it was a complete joke'.
Clive Patterson, 32, who was working on a documentary on the virus with Mr Samura, also volunteered to be screened.
He said: 'We have been working, interviewing, people who are in the thick of it.
'If you are going to make the effort and take this measure, you might as well make it compulsory.
'I could have Ebola and I could have walked straight through.'
Checks: This is the health assessment questionnaire being used to screen passengers arriving from West Africa, for signs of Ebola
First steps: The Government began screening of passengers on certain flights into Heathrow today - but it was branded a 'complete joke'
Criticism: Clive Patterson, 32, a film maker working in Liberia on an Ebola documentary was not stopped so went to speak to medical staff himself and said: 'I could have walked straight through.'
Gina Jere, 50, said she was surprised not to have been screened at Heathrow this morning.
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The journalist - who flew in from The Gambia via Brussels - said she saw no one being screened this morning and she was not even asked where she had flown in from.
She said when she arrived in The Gambia she and her fellow passengers were all screened.
She said: 'I think I should have been screened.'
It came as Jeremy Hunt said the Ebola epidemic could be as deadly as Aids, which has claimed 30million lives.
And it emerged the death rate has now reached 70 per cent, with the World Health Organisation warning there could be 10,000 new cases per week within two months.
More than 4,000 people have died from a total of 8,914 cases across West Africa and also Spain and the United States.
In America every high risk passenger arriving at five airports including JFK in New York from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea has their temperature checked and asked if they are unwell.
Exit screening is already in place in West Africa, but the World Health Organisation does not advise on entry screening in other countries.
But the Government has decided to do it at Heathrow from today and Gatwick and Eurostar terminals later this week.
Mr Hunt told The Times: 'This is a global health emergency we haven't seen for years. Possibly it could get to the scale of the Aids epidemic. The impact it could have could be absolutely huge.
'If we are going to make our country safe we need to make sure the virus is contained. It is a global phenomenon'.