The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Friday initiated at Hamad International Airport (HIA) thermal screening of all travellers coming from China, as part of its precautionary measures to detect cases of the novel Coronavirus.Last updated: January 24 2020 08:56 PM
“About 2,000 travellers from China on board six flights were examined through three thermal inspection sites inside HIA Friday and no positive case detected,” said Dr Hamad al-Rumaihi, director of Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control at the Public Health Department and co-chair of the National Epidemic Preparation Committee.
The official explained that the National Pandemic Preparedness Committee at the MoPH has approved the use of thermal examination at HIA for all travellers from China, while raising awareness among them about the symptoms of pneumonia, including high fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.
The MoPH, in co-operation with HIA and Qatar Airways, has installed 10 advanced thermal cameras that can remotely record the body temperature of each traveller from China.
“The inspection does not take more than 20 minutes for all passengers on a plane, without delaying them or disrupting work (at the airport),” observed Dr al-Rumaihi.
The thermal cameras are being operated under the supervision of a team of doctors and nurses from the MoPH and the Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
A medical clinic is set up inside the airport to deal with any suspected case, according to the official.
A doctor from the emergency department, a nurse and representatives of the ambulance service are available at HIA.
“In the event of confirmation of a suspected case that conforms to the standard definition of the disease, which includes a rise in temperature with the presence of pneumonia, the patient will be transferred to the hospital,” Dr al-Rumaihi said.
In addition to the screening examination procedures that take place at HIA, there are awareness campaigns inside the aircraft coming from China, before arriving in Doha.
The passengers on flights from China are urged to inform the flight crew if they have any symptom of the disease, such as high temperature, coughing and difficulty breathing, or to report to the clinic in HIA immediately upon arrival.
Passengers (from China) should be aware of the need to watch out for the appearance of any of these symptoms within 14 days of reaching Qatar, as this is the period during which the illness can manifest.
Regarding the possibility of applying the new procedures to travellers from other countries, Dr al-Rumaihi explained that all cases of the novel Coronavirus that have appeared in the countries concerned were coming from China, where the outbreak has started.
“In the event of this disease spreading to other countries, the screening protocol shall be applied to the respective travellers as well,” he added.
Ali al-Khater, chair of the MoPH's Healthcare Communications Committee and chief communications officer at HMC, stressed that suspected cases, identified through the thermal camera screening, will be transferred immediately for further medical examination and subsequently to the hospital for a final diagnosis of the novel Coronavirus infection.
The MoPH had confirmed two days ago that it had taken all necessary precautions to combat the disease.
The National Pandemic Preparedness Committee has issued precautionary recommendations that include alerting all health care providers to ensure timely detection and notification of suspected cases at the local and global levels in co-ordination with the World Health Organisation.