Covid-19: Stricter coronavirus screening implemented in UAE
Six countries have been added to the travel history watch list.
With the spike of Covid-19 infections beyond China, the Ministry of Health and Prevention in UAE was quick to issue fresh guidelines towards the screening of suspected patients. Six countries have been added to the travel history watch list.
Now, patients with respiratory infection symptoms who have returned from China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran, Japan, Singapore, and Italy in the last 28 days will need to be placed in isolation, according to the latest guideline.
Earlier, only patients with a travel history to China presenting flu symptoms were tested for Covid-19.
A circular issued by the health ministry, a copy of which Khaleej Times has studied, clearly states that all individuals who have come in contact with an individual or animal known or strongly suspected to have Covid-19 should also be placed in isolation.
"If an isolation room with airborne precautions are not available, the patient must be placed in an adequately ventilated single room with a separate bathroom," the circular added.
If the patient displays severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) - with no other lab result that explain the illness - he or she must also be placed in immediate isolation.
Symptoms of an upper respiratory infection include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing. There are also early symptoms like chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, and runny nose.
Dr Mohammed Arif, internal medicine specialist at Aster Hospital, Mankhool, said Covid-19 symptoms and those of any other infections are "pretty similar", so thorough investigations have to be made. "It is important to know that with only symptoms we would not be able to diagnose the infection. Particularly in this context, with the rise of COVID-19, we would have to isolate all infection cases, including SARI, until the type of infection is proven," Dr Arif explained.
"We cannot designate all the infections as Covid-19 ... unless some relevant history of travel or exposure to positive infections (is noted)."
So far, the UAE has recorded 13 COVID-19 cases, with three having fully recovered.
Residents taking precaution
With the latest COVID-19 developments, many residents who spoke to Khaleej Times said they are exercising extra caution.
Smitha Ravindran, a Dubai resident who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis for the last 10 years, said she has been advised by her doctor to be extra careful.
"I was pleasantly surprised to get a call from my hospital asking whether I have fever or any respiratory difficulties. They have asked me to take precautions like wearing masks while going out to avoid the risk of contracting the virus," said Ravindran, a mother of two.
"Mine is an immunity disease and I know I have to extra careful. I am carrying hand sanitisers in my bag and I use them before and after using the public toilets or even after touching door handles," she said.
Some also said they had been avoiding unnecessary travels, especially to infected countries.
"I often travel to Thailand and Singapore for business. But I have decided to call off my trips temporarily because I think it is risky," said Hisham Qassim, a Pakistani businessman in Abu Dhabi.
"We are encouraging our clients to do teleconferencing and avoid travel. That is the best way to do business in these times," said Qassim.
Suspected patients: who should be closely monitored?
Those who ...
>>Exhibit with upper or lower respiratory symptoms 'with or without fever'
>>And have returned from China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Iran, Japan, Singapore, and Italy in the last 28 days
>>Have come in contact with an individual or animal known or strongly suspected to have COVID-19
>>Have severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) - with no other lab result that explain the illness
'Keep hand sanitisers in your bag'
Medical experts are reminding people to use hand sanitisers as the first measure of prevention.
"Hygiene cannot take second place. Even with a mask, you can contract the virus if you don't use hand sanitisers," said Dr Sukant Bagdia, a pulmonologist at NMC Royal Hospital, Dubai.
"So far, the virus is contracted either through droplets or contact from infected person. So, the best form of precaution is hand hygiene.
"What I would advise is people to carry a hand sanitiser in their bag and to generously use it every time they touch anything or sit in a public place."
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