No scope for laxity in fight against virus - GulfToday

No scope for laxity in fight against virus


The photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The coronavirus outbreak, which has already claimed more than 300 people and infected over 14,000 in China and beyond, continues to pose a huge challenge to the global community.

Many governments around the world have already taken drastic measures, from border closures to flight bans, but there can be no laxity, as the respiratory disease constitutes a global health emergency.

China’s imposing of a lockdown on the eastern city of Wenzhou, some 800 kilometres away from Wuhan, the metropolis at the heart of the health emergency, adds to deepening concern about the potential of the virus to spread further and more rapidly.

Most of the infections overseas have been in people who had travelled from Wuhan or surrounding areas of Hubei province.

The first death from the illness reported outside China turned out to be a 44-year-old Chinese man who died in a hospital in Manila, Philippines.

The outbreak is showing little sign of abating and the global spread is worrisome as infections have also been reported in more than two dozen other countries and territories, including Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Russia, Spain, Thailand and the United States.

Some consolation, though, comes from the fact that Chinese data suggest the virus is less deadly than the 2002-03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which killed nearly 800 people of the some 8,000 it infected.

Although the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern, it has made it clear that global trade and travel restrictions are not necessary.

Beijing has acted responsibly. China quickly identified the virus and shared its sequence, so that other countries could diagnose it quickly and protect themselves, which has resulted in rapid diagnostic tools.

With concern rising that less developed countries will be more vulnerable, China has agreed to work internationally, with others who need support and the measures China has taken are good not only for that country, but also for the rest of the world, as WHO officials point out.

However, the bothersome issue is that there are as yet many unknown factors concerning the speed and spread of the epidemic.

It is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.

Low- and middle-income countries certainly deserve greater support for their response to any cases, allowing them access to vaccines, drugs and diagnostic tools.

In the UAE, timely measures and efficient system of surveillance in the country’s health sector have helped greatly in dealing with the situation.

The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention has been taking all necessary precautions in coordination with other relevant health authorities in the country in order to ensure the safety of the citizens and residents.

The Ministry has made it absolutely clear that the number of cases detected in the UAE is very low and that there is no cause for concern as the health care system in the country is strong enough to combat the disease.

One of the challenges that needs to be combated is fake news and rumours.

As top ministry officials point out, the public should rely on official sources for information and avoid giving heed to rumours. Approved media entities and official social media accounts are the most authentic sources of information.

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