Dubai airport to begin screening passengers for China coronavirus

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Dubai, the world's biggest international air travel hub, will screen passengers on direct flights from China following the outbreak of a newly-identified coronavirus in China that killed at least 17 people.

Dubai Airports will conduct thermal screening measures on passengers in compliance with directives from the UAE's aviation regulator, based on instructions from the Ministry of Health and Prevention, the airports operator said in a statement on Thursday.

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Read more: UAE 'completely free' of coronavirus

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"All passengers arriving on direct flights from the People’s Republic of China must receive thermal screening at the gate upon arrival and be provided with informational leaflets," Dubai Airports said. "The screening will be conducted on secured, closed gates at the airport by Dubai Health Authority and its Airport Medical Centre team."

The UAE, a popular hub with Chinese travellers and transit passengers, joins Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the US, Australia and other countries in undertaking screening measures at their international airports. The measures come as the number of deaths and infection cases from the newly-identified respiratory disease mounts and the virus spreads.

About 3.68 million Chinese passengers travelled through Dubai International Airport in 2019, a five per cent year-on-year increase. The number of tourists to Dubai grew 5.1 per cent last year to 16.73 million, driven by the growing influx of Chinese visitors to the emirate, after it eased visa regulations on travellers from the country in 2016. In 2019, the number of visitors from China increased by 15.5 per cent year-on-year to 989,000 and ranked among Dubai's top five source markets.

Dubai, home to the world's biggest long-haul carrier, Emirates, sees about 90 weekly flights to Chinese cities.

The UAE said on Wednesday it is "completely free” of the coronavirus and procedures are in place to deal with any possible outbreak here.

In a statement released on Wam, the UAE’s news agency, the National Committee for International Health Regulations and the Control of Pandemics said procedures are in place to deal with any possible outbreak here.

"The UAE has an effective integrated system and plans for emergency and crisis to address public health risks and the country is in constant touch with the World Health Organisation, WHO, to find out the latest updates, recommendations and procedures taken in this matter," the committee said.

"The health situation pose no grounds for concern and the ministry is closely following up on the situation to ensure the health and safety of everyone.”

Hospitals across the UAE have said they are also preparing to identify and treat any coronavirus cases among people who have recently travelled to high-risk regions.

Bahrain's Ministry of Health "co-ordinated with the Bahrain International Airport and taken pre-emptive measures," it said, without elaborating, according to Bahrain's News Agency.

Saudi Arabia will evaluate passengers arriving on direct and indirect flights from China to ensure their safety, the kingdom's health ministry said on Wednesday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said it will decide on Thursday whether to declare a global emergency over the coronavirus.

The virus, which first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, spreads through human contact and has reached other countries in Asia, heightening concerns about air travel safety.

Dubai International Airport is the world's busiest by international passengers. The hub is conducting screening measures as a precaution after the outbreak of the coronavirus. AP Photo

Updated: January 23, 2020 03:42 PM

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