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French press review 17 October 2014

The global emergency to tackle the Ebola epidemic, which has killed 4,500 people in Africa, is the big story in this morning’s papers. The government has decided to institute systematic screening of all passengers arriving Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport from Guinea.

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"The virus of fear,”  Libération headlines. Its special envoy visited West Point, a neighbourhood in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, and reports that residents skip quarantine measures put in place to limit the spread of the epidemic in an act of defiance against the government.

According to the paper, conventional wisdom in the township is that people get killed in the quarantine centres. Libé presents the outbreak in Europe as a direct consequence of flaws in the health system and the inefficiency of protocols on border security.

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Le Parisien is particularly alarmed by the risks of contamination faced by nurses, as they are the ones who deal with suspected cases before their status is diagnosed.

The newspaper says its fears were aroused by an Ebola alert at the Begin military hospital near Paris, following reports that a nurse who treated France’s first Ebola case had been admitted there.

Medical tests carried out on the healthworker have so far turned out to be negative but a top official of the professional nurses’ union vents his anger in an interview laying out the high risks faced by health workers.

A special supplement in the paper includes useful information about the rigorous measures already in place here in France to help hospital staff avoid contamination as well as about the testing process followed by lab technicians to diagnose the virus.

Dossier: Ebola outbreak 2014

La Croix for its part is urging people to get informed and to stop being alarmed by wild rumours that are often circulated by the press in Europe.

In an editorial Le Figaro warns that the battle against Ebola will be won or lost in Africa. It, too, dispatched a correspondent to Monrovia and he speaks about "invisible" Ebola patients wandering aimlessly in the streets. The correspondent also claims that the spread of the virus has plunged the world in a sort of irrational fear, forcing US President Barack Obama to take a number of exceptional measures. The plan is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the failures committed in Dallas, Texas, where two nurses were contaminated while treating an Ebola patient, according to the right-wing newspaper.

Le Figaro welcomes the global mobilisation of over one billion dollars to fund a massive drive against the virus involving governments, multilateral institutions and the world's richest people.

Most worthy of notice are names like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, who have shelled out 50 and 25 million dollars respectively. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has donated 18 million dollars through his foundation. The United States leads the list of contributors with 350 million dollars, ahead of France with 70 million euros, while the World Bank has allocated 400 million dollars to support the anti-Ebola effort.

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Friday’s papers also take up the government's unveiling of a plan to reform the French family allowances system.

The measure announced by Social Affairs Minister Marisol Touraine on Thursday provides for reduction of family allowances according to income. According to Libération’s projections, couples with two children earning more than 6,000 euros per month could lose up to half of their current allowances. Couples with wages running about 8,000 euros will see their benefits slashed by three quarters. However, the threshold will be increased by 500 euros for parents with a third child.

An estimated 12 per cent of French -those families classified under the category of the wealthiest French citizens - are set to be affected by the measure. It comes into effect on 1 July 2015 and is a trade-off with Socialist lawmakers who rejected the unpopular plan to slash birth allowances for second children and the deferral to 16 of bonuses for 14-year-olds. Le Parisien describes the reform of the 1945 family law as "revolution on the march".

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