RIYADH: ABDUL HAMID AL-ANSARI
Published — Monday 1 July 2013
Last update 1 July 2013 6:25 am
The effective medical surveillance system put in place by the Ministry of Health at every border outlet in the Kingdom has helped prevent and control the spread of coronavirus.
Khaled Al-Merghalani, the ministry’s spokesman, said competent medical authorities were screening pilgrims and visitors who entered the Kingdom, and any person showing any symptom of the virus as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) was being examined through medical tests.
As per the directions of the national scientific committee, the authorities also ensure that all visitors comply with health requirements, including medical documents and proof of vaccination.
Ziad Memesh, undersecretary at the ministry, expressed concern about visitors streaming in from countries that lacked advanced medical facilities. “We don’t really know if the virus is already spreading in their countries,” he said.
Speaking on the sidelines of an international conference on prevention and infection control in Geneva recently, he denied that the Health Ministry was considering restricting the number of pilgrims to Saudi Arabia as a precautionary measure to check the spread of the virus.
“We are capable of monitoring and handling the situation, but there are countries which are not even looking into the matter because of lack of expertise,” he said.
Al-Merghalani had earlier stated that the ministry was making extensive arrangements to check the spread of the virus or its transmission through pilgrims and foreign visitors. “The longtime experience of Saudi medical authorities to deal with such mass visits makes them competent to handle such situations,” he said. Medical experts at the conference expressed concern at the spread of the virus, particularly in view of the upcoming pilgrimage season, and the limited information available on the virus.
“We must gather all inputs on the virus and the disease so that we can disseminate the information among countries that send pilgrims to Saudi Arabia,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. Medical experts applauded the Kingdom’s efforts in controlling the spread of the virus. They said the country had seen through and overcome two seasons of epidemics that coincided with Haj seasons in the past 10 years — SARs in 2003 and H1N1 in 2009.