Coronavirus: Dubai health officials urge public to avoid 'panic mode'

DHA chiefs outline the precautions that should be taken to reduce the risk of infection

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Health officials in Dubai have urged residents not to go into "panic mode" over the spread of coronavirus.

Six more cases of Covid-19, were announced by the UAE on Tuesday, taking the number of confirmed cases in the country to 27.

Nurseries, schools and universities have temporarily closed their doors as a precautionary measure, while a number of public gatherings, including live concerts, have been postponed.

Medical professionals at the Dubai Health Authority told The National that everything possible was being done to contain the virus.

My advice to the community is to avoid getting into panic mode

Dr Abdulla Al Rasasi

Dr Abdulla Al Rasasi, head of preventive medicine in the DHA's Public Health Protection Department, said medics were working around the clock to treat passengers arriving in Dubai who are suspected of having the virus.

“My advice to the community is to avoid getting into panic mode,” he said.

“We have medical teams at Dubai airports and these teams are present 24/7.

“If you greet someone with respiratory symptoms, do not touch their hands or hug them.

“If you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitiser.”

Self-isolation in the family home for anyone who has travelled to a virus hotspot and is showing symptoms of Covid-19 is the most effective way to prevent further outbreak, officials said.

Health authorities should be called first before one visits a medical facility for treatment to reduce the risk of infecting others who may already be ill and more vulnerable to symptoms.

Airport authorities are carrying out non-intrusive thermal screening for all passengers on-arrival in Dubai.

Passengers from countries with a high infection rate, such as China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, are screened twice for the virus.

Dr Al Rasasi said only those most at risk from severe symptoms, who have travelled to an area where coronavirus cases have been recorded within two weeks, or have been in contact with someone who has, should be tested if they display symptoms.

“Not everyone with a cold or upper respiratory symptoms needs to get tested,” he said.

“People who are required to undergo a screening are those with upper or lower respiratory symptoms, with or without fever.

“We will want to screen anyone with a severe acute respiratory infection without an alternative explanatory diagnosis such as a flu.

“Reducing the risk of infecting others begins at home.”

The first or immediate step is to isolate yourself from family members, request them to buy a mask for you and then go to the nearest medical centre.

People can go to public health centres or private hospitalsin Dubai after first notifying health authorities.

Once there, they will be kept in isolation until the results of a nasal swab are returned.

If the result is positive, the patient will receive further medical care.

If negative, the person should follow home-isolation protocols for 14 days from the date of travel in the UAE, or from the last date of contact with a positive case.

Face masks should only be worn by those already showing symptoms in order to reduce the spread of germs through coughing and sneezing.

Regular hand-washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is recommended as best practice to maintain good hygiene.

The recovery time for those with Covid-19 depends on the strength of their immune system.

Currently, there is no vaccine for the virus, but doctors can treat the symptoms in a similar way to seasonal flu.

“People with a flu should always follow certain precautions to avoid the spread of the disease,” said Dr Hend Al Awadhi, head of health promotion and education at the DHA.

“Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, correctly dispose of tissues and hand hygiene is particularly important.

“If you are sick, stay indoors, stay at home and get the rest you need.

“If you fall under the category that requires Covid-19 testing, take all necessary steps to prevent the spread of infection and go to the nearest healthcare centre.”

To report suspected cases before a hospital visit, call the DHA call centre on 800 342, the Department of Health Estijaba service on 8001717 or the Ministry of Health and Prevention on 80011111.

Updated: March 4, 2020 03:53 PM

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