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KUWAIT CITY, Feb 4: Kuwait started implementing recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meetings in dealing with coronavirus even before the issuance of these recommendations on Jan 29-30, says Health Minister Dr Bassel Al-Sabah.
The minister made the statement Tuesday when he and his accompanying team, which included Undersecretary Dr Mustafa Reda and Head of the Supreme Council for International Health Laws Dr Sundus Qabandi, delivered a presentation on the virus.
The Assembly allotted two hours of Tuesday’s session for deliberations on the virus, during which the minister disclosed the Media Committee at the ministry met on Feb 2 to tackle the issue. He clarified WHO have not taken a decision to impose travel ban due to coronavirus until now; adding the GCC responded to the request of Kuwait to hold an emergency meeting on Jan 29 when the recommendations were presented. He said the Supreme Council for International Health Laws received the first notification from WHO on Dec 31, 2019.
He revealed the recommendations include recalling diplomatic delegations and their families from China and limiting travel to China for very urgent reasons only, affirming that Kuwait had earlier taken such precautionary measures. In their presentation, the health minister and his team revealed the virus was discovered in China on Dec 31, 2019 while examining pneumonia patients. He explained the virus is transmitted from animals to humans and from humans to humans.
He pointed out the virus was first recognized in 1960 but it was not dangerous then and the symptoms are similar to flu. He added the virus was known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. It appeared as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Arab Peninsula in 2012. At the time, the virus was transmitted from camels to people.
He went on to say the recently discovered coronavirus has no cure until now; indicating patients are merely given medicines to reduce temperature, drips and antibiotics. He added that he presided over the Emergency Committee meeting on Jan 22. He had a meeting with the directors of hospitals on Jan 26, during which the directors were informed about the recommendations.
On the same day, the Central Emergency Committee met to take the relevant procedures such as installing thermal cameras in Kuwait International Airport and at the borders, as well as distributing masks, gloves and sterilization equipment to hospitals.
The public awareness plan of the Media Committee was implemented on Jan 28, including the heightened visibility of senior ministry officials through interviews on television, other media outlets, social media and daily newspapers in order to respond to questions and deal with rumors.
The media campaign included distribution of brochures in schools, universities and public facilities; in addition to organizing daily workshops and lectures. Cards were given to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) including forms to be filled by passengers arriving from countries where the virus is active. In case these passengers have no symptoms, they are monitored for 14 days – the period that the virus remains in body before the symptoms appear.
If symptoms appear any time during these 14 days, the patient is referred to the hospital, isolated and laboratory tests are done. The minister affirmed distribution of the special equipment to all hospitals, whether public or private; where as special wards and isolated rooms are allocated in every hospital to be ready to receive possible coronavirus cases any time. He also confirmed the formation of a quick intervention team to assist emergency teams in hospitals.
He said Kuwait was among the first few countries to obtain the laboratory test to diagnose coronavirus, pointing out it takes three or four hours to get the results.
All precautionary procedures are taken to deal with those suspected of infection coming from certain destinations but this does not mean coronavirus exists in Kuwait, he clarified. He reiterated the Health Ministry is keen on raising public awareness about the disease.
He added the Ministry of Awqaf has been asked to allot some time during Friday sermons for warning citizens and expatriates about the danger of spreading rumors about the virus. He revealed WHO’s recommendations highlight the importance of continuous communication and exchanging information due to the fact that the number of coronavirus cases in China is increasing. MPs Saleh Ashour, Ali Al-Daqbasi, Muhammad Al-Dallal, Osama Al-Shaheen, Hamdan Al-Azmi, Abdullah Al-Rumo, Adel Al-Damkhi and others commented on the presentation of Al- Sabah saying it fully covered the topic. They expressed appreciation for the efforts exerted by the Ministry of Health, Sheikh Dr Bassel Al-Sabah and the accompanying team. However, MP Omar Al-Tabtabaei wonders why the minister denied the existence of coronavirus in the country; stressing that Kuwait has its own coronavirus – the widespread corruption
The Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in coordination with the Ministry of Health and other concerned authorities continues to be fully prepared to examine the passengers using the thermal cameras by medical staff from the Ministry of Health following the outbreak of coronavirus, reports Al-Qabas daily.
A reliable source told Al-Qabas a circular has been issued upon instructions of the Ministry of Health not to allow the citizens of two countries – China and Hong Kong – until further notice and that the same applies to those who may have transited via these two countries even if they hold a visa and valid residence.