x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Returning expatriates 'do not need virus-free certificates'

Health officials have dismissed a report that all expatriates re-entering the UAE after holidays would need medical certificates proving they do not have the H1N1 virus.

Abu Dhabi // Health officials have dismissed a report that all expatriates re-entering the UAE after holidays would need medical certificates proving they do not have the H1N1 virus. The Ministry of Health released a statement via the state news agency, WAM, yesterday. It came shortly after an English newspaper printed the claim, quoting an unnamed source within the ministry. Dr Ali Ahmed bin Shakar, the director general of the ministry and a member of the National Committee for Combating Swine Flu, said the story was "completely untrue".

He said his committee was dedicated "to standards set out by the World Health Organisation in fighting the H1N1 virus". The newspaper report had said that every expatriate returning to the UAE after a summer holiday would need to present a medical certificate proving he or she did not have the H1N1 virus. It did not explain who would issue the certificates and verify them or why the policy would not be applied to Emiratis.

The report also indicated that employers and sponsors had the right to cancel the visas of any workers found to be "intentionally concealing" an infection. Dr bin Shakar said this was also totally untrue and dismissed the claim that the committee had taken a decision to place thermal cameras in malls. "The idea was not even included on the agenda of the two committees," he added. "We are working on implementing a plan in co-operating with other government departments," Dr bin Shakar said, "especially the higher education department and Islamic regulation department."

He added that the committee was handling all issues regarding the virus with "transparency and clarity". "We do this because they want to make sure that all people remain healthy," he said. The UAE has 125 confirmed cases of swine flu, according to the ministry. There are 35 people still receiving treatment in hospitals. According to the Eastern Mediterranean regional office of the World Health Organisation, the total number of cases in the region is more than 1,100, with one death reported in Egypt and another in Saudi Arabia.

Last week the regional office drew up a resolution that called on member states to "rationalise the use of antiviral medicines" and "develop a national pandemic vaccination strategy including vaccine deployment". munderwood@thenational.ae