Oman ready to deal with nCoV; all airports on alert
H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Obaid al Sa’eedi, Minister of Health, on Sunday reviewed Oman’s preparedness to deal with any eventuality arising out of the Novel Coronavirus (2019nCoV) outbreak in China.
Held at the Directorate General for Disease Surveillance and Control, the meeting discussed the public health plan, particularly the preparations and procedures used to examine arriving passengers at airports and ports from the nCoV-infected areas.
In addition, the meeting discussed the preparations of the hospitals and healthcare institutions to address any suspected cases of Novel Coronavirus, as well as the provision of laboratory fluids and reagents in the Central Public Health Laboratory.
The meeting also touched upon the community outreach plan through formal social media channels.
The meeting was attended by H E Dr Mohammed bin Saif al Hosni, Undersecretary for Health Affairs in the Ministry of Health, (MoH) along with members of the Central Committee for Public Health Emergency.
MoH has urged all citizens and residents to follow all statements issued by it and communicate it with through the contact centre at 24441999 for any information.
Ministry issues statement
The ministry said on Sunday that no cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Eastern Mediterranean Region, including Oman so far.
MoH said that the authorities in Oman are following the epidemiological situation due to the spread of 2019-nCoV in China.
Out of the 1,975 cases, a total of 34 suspected cases have been reported in countries including Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Macau, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan, Nepal, Australia, US, Canada and France.
Oman Airports on alert
Oman Airports has said that in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and its strategic partners, it’s ready to deal with any eventuality. ‘We confirm the readiness of our airports to deal with any suspected cases of the emerging #coronavirus in accordance with the international regulations and procedures taken under these circumstances,’ Oman Airports tweeted.
‘We also confirm that #OmanAirports has raised the alert status of the medical and other concerned teams at the airports. Sterilisers and masks have been provided for the use of staff and passengers who sneeze, cough, or show any similar symptom.’
Wuhan, China - China expanded drastic travel restrictions on Sunday to contain an epidemic that has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2,000, as the US, France and Japan prepared to evacuate their citizens from a quarantined city at the outbreak’s epicentre.
China has locked down the province of Hubei in an unprecedented operation affecting tens of millions of people in a bid to slow the spread of the respiratory virus.
Its ability to spread appears to be ‘getting stronger’ though it is ‘not as powerful as SARS’, top Chinese health officials said at a press conference.
The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 20022003.
Outside the epicentre, Shandong province and four cities - Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an and Tianjin - announced bans on long-distance buses entering or leaving, a move that will affect millions of people travelling over the Lunar New Year holiday.
The populous southern province of Guangdong, Jiangxi in the centre, and three cities made it mandatory for residents to wear face masks in public.
Originating in Hubei’s capital of Wuhan, the virus has spread throughout China and across the world - with cases confirmed in around a dozen countries including as far away as the United States.
The US State Department said on Sunday it was arranging a flight from Wuhan to San Francisco for consulate staff and other Americans in the city.
France’s government and the French carmaker PSA also said they planned to evacuate staff and families, who will be quarantined in a city in a neighbouring province.
Japan is coordinating with Beijing to swiftly evacuate its citizens, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.
South Korea’s consulate in Wuhan said it was conducting an online poll of its citizens there to gauge demand for a chartered flight out.
Instead of New Year revelry, Wuhan has been seized by an eerie calm that deepened on Sunday as new restrictions banned most road traffic in the metropolis of 11mn.
Loudspeakers broke the silence by offering tips slathered with bravado. ‘Do not believe in rumours. Do not spread rumours. If you feel unwell, go to the hospital in time’, the message said.
‘Wuhan is a city that dares to face difficulties and keeps overcoming them’, the female voice added, mentioning the deadly 2002-03 SARS epidemic and 1998 Yangtze River flooding.
The health emergency has overwhelmed Wuhan’s hospitals with patients, prompting authorities to send hundreds of medical reinforcements, including military doctors, and start construction on two hospitals.
With non-essential vehicles banned from the road, volunteers stepped up to drive sick fellow citizens to hospitals.
“There has to be someone who does this,” Zhang Lin (48) said as he waited for a patient to emerge from a clinic for the drive back home in nearly deserted streets.
Some foreigners in Wuhan expressed deep concern, saying they feared going outside.
“We want to be evacuated as soon as possible, because either the virus, the hunger or the fear will kill us,” Mashal Jamalzai, a political science student from Afghanistan at Central China Normal University, said.
The outbreak is suspected to have originated in a Wuhan market where animals including rats, snakes and hedgehogs were reportedly sold. Health officials said the virus has since become transmissible between humans. “From what we see now, this disease is indeed... not as powerful as SARS,” said Gao Fu, head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, it also appears that the ‘spreading ability of the virus is getting stronger’, said Ma Xiaowei, head of China’s national health commission.
The government says most deaths involved the elderly or people with existing ailments.
Fearing a repeat of SARS, China has dramatically scaled back celebrations and travel associated with the New Year holiday, which began on Friday, while tourist sites like Beijing’s Forbidden City and a section of the Great Wall have closed.
In Hong Kong, Disneyland announced on Sunday it had closed as a precaution after the city declared an emergency to combat the crisis. Shanghai’s Disneyland park had already closed on Saturday.
Also in Hong Kong, protesters opposed to government plans to use a newly built public housing facility as a quarantine centre threw petrol bombs at the building, showing how fearful people are of the virus.
A new working group to tackle the epidemic, chaired by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, called for local authorities to consider ‘extending the Spring Festival holiday’, in order to prevent the movement of people.
Several cities responded, with new school terms delayed in Beijing, Shanghai and the city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province - which also ordered companies to extend the end of the holiday until February 9.
H E Dr Ahmed al Sa’eedi holds a special review meeting on Sunday
A woman wearing a protective face mask returns from a market in Wuhan on Sunday
Security personnel in protective clothing at a subway station in Beijing on Sunday