x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Nurseries closed to stop swine flu spread

Public urged not to panic after baby and elderly woman become latest victims of H1N1 virus to die, with death toll now standing at six.

ABU DHABI // All nurseries and special needs centres will be closed indefinitely as a precaution against the spread of swine flu, officials said yesterday. The Ministry of Social Affairs made the announcement as the Health Ministry said the number of deaths caused by the H1N1 virus had risen to six.

The latest victims were an eight-month-old Emirati baby and a 75-year-old Emirati woman. The British School-Al Khubairat said it was suspending lessons for a class in which one pupil had swine flu. Parents of children in the year six Cambridge class were all spoken to by the school yesterday. They were told to keep their children at home until next Wednesday. According to Mariam al Roumi, the Minister of Social Affairs, the decision to close the nurseries was based on recommendations from the National Committee to Combat Swine Flu "since children and people with chronic diseases are among the high-risk categories".

She said the measure was preventive and urged people not to panic. Her statement, issued on WAM, the state news agency, did not provide any more details on when the nurseries would close nor for how long. Dr Hanif Hassan, the Minister of Health, hosted a public meeting in Abu Dhabi yesterday to discuss the expected impact of the virus. Along with education and labour officials, he spoke about plans for haj and the nation's vaccination programme.

The UAE has ordered enough vaccine to cover between 10 and 15 per cent of the population, as recommended by the World Health Organisation. He said people should be aware of the symptoms and what action to take if they became sick. "The point is [the virus] is here, it is wherever you go in the world," he said. "So we must remember that it does not need to be dangerous if it is found and treated early. The death rate is very low."

Dr Hassan did not say where or when the two latest victims died but said they had pre-existing health conditions. An advice booklet for pilgrims performing Haj and Umrah will be printed soon. Haj pilgrims will have to fill out forms on their arrival and return. Dr Hassan said about 120 pupils had suffered influenza-like illnesses at the New Filipino Private School in Sharjah. The school was closed last week by Humaid al Qattami, the Minister of Education.