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Fri 24 Jan 2020 01:03 AM

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More Gulf airports screen passengers from China amid virus outbreak

Airports in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait follow Dubai International's lead in screening to prevent further outbreak of deadly virus

More Gulf airports screen passengers from China amid virus outbreak
Passengers wear face masks at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on January 23 in Manila, Philippines.

Gulf airports, including one of the world's biggest aviation hubs, said Thursday they would screen all passengers arriving from China amid the outbreak of a deadly virus.

The move goes further than other major transport hubs in Europe and the United States, which have limited their screening to passengers coming from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the scare.

Dubai airport authorities confirmed that "all passengers arriving on direct flights from the People's Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival," a statement said.

Dubai International Airport in 2018 served over 89 million passengers, including more foreign passengers than any other airport worldwide for the fifth year in a row.

Dubai's government said Thursday that some 989,000 Chinese tourists visited the glitzy emirate last year -- a number expected to cross the one million mark in 2020.

Some 3.6 million Chinese transited through the emirate's main airport in 2019.

"The screening will be conducted on secured, closed gates at the airport by Dubai Health Authority and its Airport Medical Centre team," the statement said.

The UAE's Abu Dhabi International Airport, another major hub, announced on Twitter Thursday that it had also begun screening passengers arriving from China, "in an effort to ensure the health and safety of all of our travelers".

Between them, the two Emirati hubs operate dozens of flights a week with Chinese cities.

China is the UAE's top trading partner and Abu Dhabi is among the 15 top crude oil suppliers to Beijing. Several hundred Chinese companies have offices in the UAE.

Saudi Arabia's pro-government Okaz newspaper reported that the kingdom would also conduct "health assessments" of passengers coming from China.

Shortly after, Kuwait and Bahrain followed suit.

Passengers "coming directly from China will be subject to checks as well as all those coming from countries determined by the health ministry if the virus spreads," a spokesman for Kuwait's Directorate General of  Civil Aviation, Saad al-Otaibi, told AFP.

Bahrain's international airport said it would check all passengers arriving at Bahrain International Airport "as a precaution to detect the 'Corona' virus present in China".

China on Saturday ordered nationwide measures to identify and immediately isolate suspected cases of a deadly virus on trains, aeroplanes and buses, as the death toll and number of patients has skyrocketed.

Inspection stations will be set up and passengers with suspected pneumonia must be "immediately transported" to a medical centre, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

The isolation of suspected cases must be followed by disinfection of the train, plane or bus.

The statement said "all departments of transportation" must "strictly" introduce prevention and control measures including screening measures in airports, railway stations, bus stations and ports.

The measures apply across all transportation routes as well as at customs and border inspections.

Staff serving passengers must all wear masks, the NHC said.

The travel authority must also provide details about those in close contact with the suspected infection case, such as those sitting in the same carriage.

The order applies across all provinces and regions.

All areas should formulate "emergency response plans" to the outbreak including training medical staff.

The announcement came as the death toll jumped to 41 and the number of cases reached almost 1,300.

In Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, the Chinese army deployed 450 medical specialists to overwhelmed hospitals.

The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its similarity to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed nearly 650 people across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

Like SARS, it can be passed among humans via the respiratory tract.

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