Gulf countries screens passengers from China amid virus outbreak

Dubai Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel, said that it is taking special precautions to screen the droves of Chinese tourists expected for the Lunar New Year holiday after the outbreak of a pneumonia-like virus that has led to China’s lockdown of the entire city of Wuhan. (File/AP)
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Updated 23 January 2020

Gulf countries screens passengers from China amid virus outbreak

  • The UAE said it was free of the coronavirus
  • China is the UAE’s top trading partner

DUBAI: Gulf airports, including one of the world’s biggest aviation hubs, said Thursday they would screen all passengers arriving from China amid the outbreak of a deadly virus.
The move goes further than other major transport hubs in Europe and the United States, which have limited their screening to passengers coming from Wuhan, the city at the center of the scare.
Dubai airport authorities confirmed that “all passengers arriving on direct flights from the People’s Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival,” a statement said.
China has locked down some 20 million people in Wuhan and the neighboring city of Huanggang to rein in the coronavirus that has already claimed 17 lives and spread to a number of other countries.
Dubai International Airport in 2018 served over 89 million passengers, including more foreign passengers than any other airport worldwide for the fifth year in a row.
Dubai’s government said Thursday that some 989,000 Chinese tourists visited the glitzy emirate last year — a number expected to cross the one million mark in 2020.
Some 3.6 million Chinese transited through the emirate’s main airport in 2019.
“The screening will be conducted on secured, closed gates at the airport by Dubai Health Authority and its Airport Medical Center team,” the statement said.
The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.
Like SARS, it can be passed among humans via the respiratory tract.
The UAE’s Abu Dhabi International Airport, another major hub, announced on Twitter Thursday that it had also begun screening passengers arriving from China, “in an effort to ensure the health and safety of all of our travelers.”
Between them, the two Emirati hubs operate dozens of flights a week with Chinese cities.
China is the UAE’s top trading partner and Abu Dhabi is among the 15 top crude oil suppliers to Beijing. Several hundred Chinese companies have offices in the UAE.
Saudi Arabia also said on Wednesday that the Kingdom would also conduct “health assessments” of passengers coming from China.
Shortly after, Kuwait and Bahrain followed suit.
Passengers “coming directly from China will be subject to checks as well as all those coming from countries determined by the health ministry if the virus spreads,” a spokesman for Kuwait’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Saad Al-Otaibi, told AFP.
Bahrain’s international airport said it would check all passengers arriving at Bahrain International Airport “as a precaution to detect the ‘Corona’ virus present in China.”
The UAE’s health ministry said Wednesday that the Gulf state with a population of 10 million, about 90 percent of them foreigners, was free of the coronavirus, and that it had taken sufficient measures to face the disease.
“The health situation poses no grounds for concern and the ministry is closely following up on the situation to ensure the health and safety of everyone,” it said.

Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

Fadi Hidmi. (Supplied)
Updated 04 April 2020

Palestinian minister claims Israeli police physically abused him

  • East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic

AMMAN: Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Hidmi was released by Israeli police on Friday afternoon after being arrested for the fourth time without charge.

Ministry spokesman Awad Awad told Arab News that Hidmi had been “warned” not to “move around” or “do any work in” Jerusalem in accordance with measures being taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Awad also claimed that Hidmi had been physically abused by the police, saying that the minister was “punched in the face and forced to wear a mask with blood on it.”

CCTV at Hidmi’s Mount of Olives house show that he was manhandled by Israeli police during his arrest in the early hours of Friday.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld confirmed the arrest.

Rosenfeld told the Israeli press that Hidmi was arrested “on suspicion of Palestinian activities in Jerusalem.”

He said police searched Hidmi’s home and confiscated documents as well as “large sums of money. Israeli media said that the police had confiscated NIS10,000 ($2,750) found in the house.

Hidmi, a Jerusalem resident, was the director of the Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce and Industry before accepting his current job in the Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s government.

Before Hidmi’s release on Friday, Shtayyeh wrote on social media: “Israel targets who work for #Jerusalem, even at such critical moments as we work to save our people's lives from #COVID19.”

East Jerusalem — with a population of 350,000 — has been all but ignored by the Israeli Ministry of Health in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Jamil Kousa, director of the St. Joseph hospital, told Palestine TV that he was only informed on March 25 that his hospital should be prepared to accept patients with COVID-19.

Ahmad Buderi, the coordinator of the Jerusalem Alliance — an organization launched to help combat COVID-19 — has said that people in the city are depending almost solely on local initiatives to deal with the pandemic.

Before his arrest, Hidmi launched the website to coordinate the distribution of urgenly needed food and medical supplies to the city’s residents.

Walid Nammour, secretary-general of the Jerusalem Hospital Network, estimates that the city’s six hospitals need $7 million to to deal with the potential spread of COVID-19 in East Jerusalem.

Nammour told Arab News that 300-400 ventilators are needed and that only 26 are available at present.