BY PMA RASHEED
The Gulf Today, 29 July 2009
The UAE Ministry of Health (MoH) has denied reports that appeared in a UAE English daily (Not The Gulf Today) that resident expatriates who had gone for vacation abroad should produce a swine flu-free medical certificate upon returning to the country.
The State news agency WAM has released the ministry's denial which stated that the National Supervisory Committee for Combating Swine Flu (H1N1 virus) had not issued any decision demanding a medical clearance certificate, from the resident expatriates who went outside the country, to prove that they are not infected with H1N1 virus before entering the country.
The news report published on Tuesday in the newspaper had said that the decree will be implemented from August. Attributed to a source from the National Committee for Combating Swine Flu, the newspaper said that instructions had been given to the entire airports, seaports and other entry points in land borders in the country, to quarantine suspected H1N1 infected patients upon their arrival.
Meanwhile, Dr Ali bin Shuker, Director of the Ministry and Chairman of the Technical Health Committee for Combating Swine Flu has emphasised that the news about the issue is “completely untrue.”
He said: “The National Supervisory Committee for Combating Swine Flu is chaired by the Health Minister Dr Hanif Hassan, and in fighting the H1N1 virus in the UAE, the body is committed to implement the standards outlined by the World Health Organisation (WHO)”.
“The swine flu combating committee has not issued any resolution demanding resident expatriates to prove that they are not infected with H1N1 virus by producing a medical clearance certificate upon their return to the UAE after vacation abroad,” he added.
The newspaper had quoted the source as saying that anyone with symptoms of swine flu trying to enter the country without the specific medical certificate would be prohibited from getting access to the country. Any company or establishment can take actions against a worker who conceals an infection intentionally. The company would have the right to cancel his sponsorship.
Dr Ali bin Shuker also denied findings of the newspaper that the committee to combat swine flu had also taken decisions to provide all shopping malls in the country with thermal scanners to detect people with high fever, before quarantining them.
“The committee had not at all taken such a resolution to install thermal scanners at shopping centres in the country. The idea was not even included on the agenda of the two committees,” affirmed the top health official.
Meanwhile, he noted, the competent authorities are currently determined to launch a public awareness campaign to be worked out in cooperation with other government authorities such as the ministries of education and higher education and the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowment.
“The national supervisory committee for combating swine flu has been handling H1N1 infected cases with transparency and clarity aimed at providing maximum safety for the health of the public,” stressed Dr Shuker.
According to him, the committee keeps the public opinion updated with the latest developments on H1NI issues through its weekly update issued every Monday.
“The committee also provides information through interviews of its officials on TV and Radio channels or other media outlets,” he added.