|19 February, 2020

GCC health ministers: All precautionary measures have been taken to deal with coronavirus

The health ministers ordered the relevant committees to follow up on the developments in the virus and exchange information among the GCC member states

Passengers coming from China wearing masks to prevent a new coronavirus are checked by Saudi Health Ministry employees upon their arrival at King Khalid International Airport, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 29, 2020.

Passengers coming from China wearing masks to prevent a new coronavirus are checked by Saudi Health Ministry employees upon their arrival at King Khalid International Airport, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia January 29, 2020.

REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri

RIYADH: All possible precautionary measures have been taken to deal with coronavirus along the borders of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, a group of its health ministers said on Wednesday.

The measures will be implemented according to the International Health Regulations (2005) approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Unified Health Procedures Manual, which was approved by the Supreme Council at the group’s 39th summit in Riyadh in December 2018.

The announcement came during an emergency meeting in Riyadh, chaired by UAE Health Minister Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al-Owais, to discuss the current developments regarding the virus and how preventative and countermeasure efforts could be unified.

The health ministers ordered the relevant committees to follow up on the developments in the virus and exchange information among the GCC member states.

The ministers also praised China’s efforts in monitoring and combating the virus and expressed their full support for cooperation with Beijing.

The ministers thanked the UAE for its efforts in evacuating many Arab nationals, keeping them under medical isolation in the emirates and then transferring them to their countries.

Al-Owais also thanked the GCC’s health council officials for their active and important role in coordinating and follow-up, saying that “the common goal is to continue to coordinate positions and strengthen cooperation in controlling epidemics, especially the emerging coronavirus through concerted efforts and exchange of experiences.”

He added it was important to determine the readiness of the GCC countries and to coordinate with the WHO in line with international health regulations.

GCC Secretary General Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf said in a speech that this meeting came to implement the decision of the health ministers to achieve one of the council’s goals, “which is to unify positions and coordinate efforts, complementarity and interconnection among the GCC states in the health field.”

He added the meeting also aimed to plan to deal with emergency situations in the GCC states, to protect citizens inside and outside the GCC, and to protect residents from this virus.

“Despite the strenuous efforts of all GCC health ministries for the national prevention of this virus, the situation necessitated an emergency and extraordinary meeting of the health ministers committee to discuss common aspects that require coordination and unification of positions and efforts to confront the virus,” he said.

He also laid out the plans and precautions needed to confront the virus, thanking the ministers for the speedy response.

In 2018, the Supreme Council adopted a guide to include air, sea and land ports to reach a joint cooperation that creates effective links to quickly respond to public health emergencies.

Al-Hajraf said that the keenness and efforts of all the GCC governments in the field of health made them at the forefront among leading countries in providing comprehensive health care at regional and international levels.

On Jan. 29, an urgent meeting of the Communicable Diseases Committee for Coordination and Cooperation was held to confront and prevent the virus. The committee came out with several recommendations, including implementing precautionary protocols for examining arrivals, therapeutic protocols, the need for raising awareness and unifying media messages, among others.

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