Coronavirus: UAE builds new medical facility to prepare against threat

The country's health minister said the site would be positioned away from residential areas

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UAE authorities are building a new medical facility to help treat Covid-19 infections should the virus spread to become a “global emergency”.

Senior health officials said the site would provide all the necessary equipment and medical expertise to treat patients over a 14-day quarantine period.

In a tweet from the government’s communication office, Abdulrahman Al Owais, the Minister of Health and Prevention, said there was no need to panic.

He said authorities had all the necessary technical and logistical preparations in hand, and would tackle suspected cases of the virus with “firm procedures”.

Mr Al Owais spoke as cases of Covid-19 appeared to continue to gain a foothold both in the region and globally.

On Wednesday, new infections were reported in Iran, Kuwait and Bahrain. The total number of cases in the Middle East is now thought to be about 200.

Around the world, health experts believe more than 82,000 people have been infected with the virus.

Of those, 32,878 have fully recovered while there have been 2,804 deaths. More than 46,000 people remain infected.

The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a public health emergency, but has so far stopped short of calling it a pandemic.

China, where the outbreak started in late December, remains the worst affected country, with almost 78,500 cases.

However, new infections are soaring elsewhere, including in South Korea, which had 1,595 cases on Thursday, an increase of 334 in one day.

The fast spread of the virus in Iran has prompted health experts to suggest the Middle East was the new battleground in the war against its spread.

Iran confirmed 139 infections and 19 deaths on Thursday, with many cases of the virus emerging elsewhere in the region being traced back to the country.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia also announced it would introduce a temporary ban on religious visits to the country.

Meanwhile, in the UAE, there remain 13 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the first four of which were detected in late January.

Doctors have said the recovery rate of the virus is slow. Most patients are better within two weeks, but particularly bad infections can last up to six weeks.

Earlier, a UAE official from the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority said the country had no plans to cancel public events or close schools, businesses or institutions due to the coronavirus.

Speaking to Reuters, the official said the Emirates was “well prepared and equipped” for the “worst-case scenario”.

The official added that authorities was closely monitoring the spread of the virus in other countries, and that relevant departments had been instructed to undertake “complete surveillance” of travellers entering the UAE.