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Hanif and Ghobash assert the leadership's commitment to provide all necessary requirements to combat H1N1

posted on 09/09/2009: 1576 views

Minister of Health HE Dr. Hanif Hassan and Minister of Labour and chairman of the National Media Council (NMC) HE Saqr Ghobash attended yesterday an extensive media get-together organised by the NMC at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR).

The congress was organised with the aim of briefing the country's media institutions on the latest developments in the sphere of combating the H1N1 virus. The event was also attended by members of the Supervisory committee to combat H1N1 influenza, Director General of the Health Ministry Dr. Ali Bin Shukr and a number of senior officials from NMC and media organisations.

Addressing the congress, Ghobash asserted the keenness of President HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum for providing the highest degree of protection and healthcare for the inhabitants of the country.

Welcoming the Health Minister and media organisations, Ghobash said that this meet stems from the conviction about the paramount role the media persons and institutions in the country have to play in such exceptional situations.

'We at NMC felt it imperative to call this meet to brief the media on the preventive and curative measures the Health Ministry is implementing to combat the H1N1 virus and stall its spreading in the country', said Ghobash.

Ghobash thanked the Director General of ECSSR Dr. Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi for hosting the event.

Dr Hanif thanked the NMC for launching such a constructive initiative. He said the UAE leadership had, right from the beginning, issued directives to take all necessary precautions to prevent the virus outbreak.

He also commended the 'pioneering role' of H.H. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor and Chairman of the National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) in rallying efforts to confront H1N1 virus.

Dr Hanif revealed the Ministry of Health's plan to encounter H1N1 virus through raising public awareness and continuing the necessary precautions that have contributed in minimizing the risk and controlling it.

"The national plan to combat H1N1 virus is based on four characteristics, including prevention, treatment, awareness and training of human resources capable of carrying out tasks in a highly professional manner,” he said.

He indicated that two committees were formed, one is supervisory and other is technical, to oversee, organise and implement the plan on the short and the long runs.

Dr Hanif pointed out that over 250 training courses were conducted to prepare nursing staff and technicians for field works, including testing of the people entering the country and ensuring that they are free from the H1N1 virus. He, however, ruled out plans to deploy thermal screening devices at the shopping malls, residential areas and workers' camp, to avoid public anxiety.

He also called for confronting rumours and relying on the authenticated reports released by the MoH and the supervisory committee via Emirates News Agency.

"Despite the fact that six people have died since the virus emerged in the UAE, the situation is still under control, given that 99.5 percent of the cases have been cured.” A representative of the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Awqaf said they were considering additional precautionary steps during the Hajj season such as isolation of suspected patients in a filed hospital and setting up a mobile operation theatre to treat infected pilgrims.

Dr Hanif said the health centres in the UAE will start vaccinating citizens and residents once the vaccines arrived and approved by the WHO.

"Priority in vaccination will be given to pilgrims and students. The vaccination process will strictly follow WHO's relevant standards.” He also said discussions were underway with the Ministry of Social Affairs on the possible postponement of kindergarten and special needs schools opening.

"The anxiety is mainly attributed to the mysterious nature of that disease. We should, however, deal with it as a common disease that could be controlled easily,” Dr Hanif said.

He said the Ministry refrained from announcing cases of infection on daily basis to avoid confusion among the public.

Answering a question on the Ministry of Labour's plan to protect workers, Ghobash said the Ministry had already put in place a prevention plan, in collaboration with the MoH and other government authorities.

Dr Mahmoud Fikir, MoH's Executive Director for health policies, assured that the situation in the UAE is normal. He said that the H1N1 current death rate is as low as 4 in every 1,000, whereas 400,000 to 450,000 out of 5 million worldwide die from common flu every year.

He said medicines in the UAE were sufficient enough, but the process of producing an H1N1 vaccine takes about 3 to 4 months.

Dr Ali Bin Shakar, MoH's Director General and Chairman of the Technical Committee, said the plan to combat the virus was in tandem with the international developments.

"The most important aspect in this stage is to raise awareness because this virus becomes weaker when we strongly deal with it.” He said that only six deaths were caused by the H1N1in the UAE. He also warned that the risk of infection is higher among pregnant women and people who have respiratory diseases and chronic diseases, as well as children.

Dr bin Shakar said the MoH's plan rests on house isolation of stable cases. He affirmed that the hospitals have intensive care and isolation rooms.

He also revealed that an alternative emergency plan was developed should there be a rise in the number of cases.

"The current situation is normal. We hope that we will not resort to that alternative emergency plan.” Dr bin Shakar indicated that world stocks of the H1N1 vaccines were not enough for the next two years.

"Every country was allowed to book quantities according to population and the level of risk. Of course the priority is for the countries with high level of risk. Vaccination will cover in the first phase 10 percent of the UAE population. Priority will be for students.” Dr bin Shakar said names of the infected people will not be disclosed, in keeping with professional ethics. - Emirates News Agency, WAM


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