Health ministers of the GCC states and Yemen have decided to chalk out a joint strategic plan to prevent the spread of swine flu in the region, in case of an outbreak.
Following an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the issue, the ministers urged people in the region to postpone non-essential travel to the countries that have reported confirmed cases of swine flu. The ministers, however, fell short of issuing a call for imposing a ban on travel to the affected countries.
The Yemeni Minister of Public Health and Population, Abdul Kareem Yahya Rasa, who chaired the meeting, had proposed a travel ban, but it was not accepted since the guidelines of the World Health Organisation on swine flu do not call for it.
The ministers urged the people in the region to take extra precautions while visiting the countries that have reported swine flu cases, and advised them to avoid the visit if it was not urgent or necessary.
They decided to set up a permanent committee with a liaison officer from each member country to work out an action plan to address the situation.
Each country has to immediately report any suspected case of swine flu through the liaison officer or the GCC health ministers’ office.
The ministers called on the GCC countries to activate and update their preparations for swine flu and exchange expertise and information.
They decided to create a strategic reserve of the medicine to treat swine flu that should be sufficient for at least 10 percent the population of each country.
They urged pharmaceutical companies in the region to produce this medicine in compliance with international standards and after completing the legal formalities. They also urged such companies to equip themselves to produce a vaccine against swine flu as and when this vaccine is developed.
At the meeting, three laboratories in Saudi Arabia were accredited as competent to test for swine flu, along with a WHO-accredited laboratory in Egypt.
The ministers decided to prepare awareness programmes about the disease as well as preventive measures. A scientific conference on swine flu will be held in Saudi Arabia on May 7, with participation by delegates from all the GCC countries.
GCC Secretary-General H E Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah was also present at the meeting. Addressing the press after the meeting, Al Attiyah said there was no need for panic about swine flu in the region since the GCC states were capable of managing the situation.
“We have proved our capability and preparedness to meet any pandemic situation during the bird flu outbreak, in coordination with international organisations,” said Al Attiyah.
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