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Airport to step up SARS vigil

posted on 12/06/2003: 1827 views


Precautionary measures against the SARS virus will be increased and run throughout the summer at Abu Dhabi International Airport, despite the fact no case to date has been registered in the country, an official of the Civil Aviation said here yesterday. "We intend to keep the measures in place as long as it is necessary for the safety of UAE residents. We are planning to increase the equipment at the airports for screening passengers. We must remain vigilant to protect our citizens," said Patrick Gordon, Advisor to the Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Civil Aviation.



Speaking to Gulf News, Gordon said the airport in cooperation with the authorities concerned came up with an efficient safety policy in a very short time to face the SARS emergency. This policy allowed the airport to handle any emergency related to the spread of infectious diseases or viruses entering the country. This was achieved due to the remarkable cooperation between the Ministry of Health, the Civil Aviation and all the other authorities concerned.



He said details will be provided on the installation of more new equipment in the coming weeks. He said this will hasten the screening procedures. Nevertheless he remarked that the infrared thermal imaging system used so far has proved to be very efficient. "The system allows screening passengers in a time frame of between 10 and 25 seconds per person. It can be improved, but it has already been proved to be very efficient, without slowing down the entry procedures."



Gordon said the major concern to date was represented by the passengers travelling from the SARS-affected countries especially China and Taiwan, with split tickets. Despite concerns, the airport registered only a few false alarms and few passengers were checked but no suspected cases were registered.



Also, an extensive cooperation with the crews and airlines staff helped a lot. Asked whether thermal screens should have been implemented at all airport gates to guarantee more efficient screening, Gordon replied that all flights from affected countries were diverted to gate 14 where the thermal imaging system was installed. He said the authorities created a balance between risk and cost efficiency and came up with the best solution which could be implemented. (The Gulf News)

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