MERS contained, says Health Ministry official

Updated 03 April 2014
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MERS contained, says Health Ministry official

A senior official from the Ministry of Health refuted rumors on Wednesday that new cases of coronavirus (MERS-CoV) had been identified in the Al-Kharj district, around 60 km from Riyadh.
Abdullah Al-Aseeri, undersecretary in the Ministry of Health, told Arab News that social media outlets were spreading misleading rumors.
“There is no new case of the virus in the Al-Kharj district,” he said. “The situation is under control Kingdom-wide and the ministry has done its part to ensure the threat is contained,” he said.
There have been 163 cases of coronavirus since September of 2012, 64 of which were fatal. He also said the ministry has been implementing a system to monitor the mutation of the disease both within and outside the Kingdom.
“The scheme has operated with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other global organizations that are involved in the fight against the disease,” he said. “There are no other cases of medical staff infected with the virus at the King Abdulaziz Hospital in Jeddah.”
The assurance came after a Saudi male nurse at the hospital, identified by local media on Sunday as 27-year-old Bandar bin Salim Al-Kuthairy, contracted the disease.
Al-Kuthairy had reportedly gone to Madinah to get married and returned to work two days later with symptoms of the illness.
“All of the hospital’s staff members were tested for the virus and they proved negative,” Al-Aseeri said.
He also said extensive research and testing in regional laboratories have uncovered many cases of infection.
Around 15,000 tests have been conducted in regional laboratories in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Madinah. He said hospital laboratories have also uncovered many cases at the National Guard Hospital and Saudi Aramco’s medical facilities.
Al-Aseeri said studies, which were conducted after the discovery of the first case in 2012, showed that researchers in the United States and the Kingdom had found the virus in camels several years ago.
Researchers from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, King Saud University and other agencies issued a joint statement that around 74 percent of camels in the Kingdom have MERS antibodies, which means they were infected with the virus at some stage in their lives.
“The virus was found in respiratory systems, which defines the transfer path between animals and humans,” he said.
Al-Aseeri said studies have also found the virus in bats. A group of researchers from the Health Ministry and Colombia University has isolated the new coronavirus in bats, which causes acute pneumonia in humans.
“One sample from an insect-eating bat showed a 100-percent genetic match with the new coronavirus in humans,” he said. “The study showed the existence of other viruses from the corona family in 28 percent of the samples.”
Researchers said that bats could be the primary incubator, while other domestic animals, especially camels, could be the secondary incubator in the transfer of the disease to humans.
Al-Aseeri said the ministry uses regional laboratories to ensure accurate diagnosis.


Yemen FM: No peace before Houthi disarmament

The Arab coalition is striving to rebuild the humanity destroyed by the Houthis, says Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Yamani. File/Getty Images
Updated 26 May 2018
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Yemen FM: No peace before Houthi disarmament

  • Alongside military operations, the coalition is undertaking humanitarian work to “rebuild the humanity destroyed by the Houthis
  • The Houthis’ “weapons and missiles must be handed over, and there is no room for dialogue or negotiation about them

LONDON: There cannot be peace in Yemen unless Houthi militias abandon their arms, said the country’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Yamani.

The internationally recognized government will not allow Iran, which backs the Houthis, to maintain a foothold in Yemen or interfere in its internal affairs, he added.
“This terrorist regime” in Tehran, “which supplies terrorist militias all over the world, is close to collapse as a result of international and popular pressure by the Iranian people, who are suffering as their terrorist state spends billions here and there for a foolish expansionist idea,” Al-Yamani said.
“The modern and civilized world that respects international law cannot accept the existence of a state sponsor of terrorism and all subversive and terrorist militias in the region,” he added.
“If Iran wants to be part of the social, cultural and political fabric of our region, it must rationalize its behavior.” Its “terrorist behavior… encourages the spread of violence in the region,” he said.
Al-Yamani added that he will start his tenure as foreign minister by focusing on negotiations and the efforts of the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths.
The government is working round the clock with the envoy’s office so he can present his ideas on June 7 after consultations with the government, Al-Yamani said.
There will be meetings in the next few days with Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and a special meeting with the negotiating team, all within the framework of the envoy’s efforts in the region, Al-Yamani added.
Griffiths has visited several countries in the region, and has met with Yemen’s government and the leadership of the Saudi-led Arab coalition.
The Houthis “suggest that political arrangements should come before security and military arrangements,” said Al-Yamani.
But “the coup against the state in January 2015 came as a result of the preference of political over security arrangements,” he added.
“And after the Houthis achieved their goals, they turned against the national consensus reflected in the peace and partnership agreement, under which the president provided facilities to save the homeland from the fate we have reached today,” Al-Yamani said.
“We cannot talk about any political arrangements because we consider them to be a foregone conclusion if we achieve the withdrawal and delivery of heavy and medium weapons and missiles,” he added. “We cannot retry something we tried before... The coup must end.”
The Houthis’ “weapons and missiles must be handed over, and there is no room for dialogue or negotiation about them,” he said. “Heavy and medium weapons should be handed over, and those militias must be withdrawn.”
Al-Yamani criticized Iran’s ambassador to the UN for speaking in dovish language while his country causes destruction in Yemen.
“Most of what we have been able to remove of the mines planted by the Houthis had the trademark of Iranian industry,” Al-Yamani said.
“Even if we achieve peace today, we will need decades to demine... There will be no possibility of safe living in the areas where mines were planted.”
Al-Yamani expressed the gratitude of his government and people for the Saudi-led coalition’s support for the government to achieve security and peace in Yemen and the whole region.
Alongside military operations, the coalition is undertaking humanitarian work to “rebuild the humanity destroyed by the Houthis, rebuild the Yemeni psyche destroyed by the war, distribute goods throughout Yemen, and reconstruct what was destroyed by the Houthi war machine,” he said.
“All this confirms that the project of restoring the state… is the project of life,” which is “opposed to the project of death brought by Iran and its Houthi militias to Yemen,” he added.
This interview is simultaneously published in Asharq Al-Awsat.