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Monday, March 8, 2021

HMC: Qatar taking precautions to protect against deadly Ebola virus

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Ebola

As concerns about the Ebola virus increase worldwide, healthcare officials in Qatar are urging calm, saying that there have been no cases of the illness here and that the country is on “high alert” just in case.

As of July 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that a total of 826 people have been killed by the virus and 1,440 have been affected since it made its comeback in March. Ebola has a mortality rate of 90 percent in its victims, and most of the people killed live in west African countries, including Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

Last month, the virus became air-borne when Liberian-American patient Patrick Sawyer took a flight from Liberia to Nigeria on July 20, collapsing at Lagos airport.

Qatar is home to thousands of West African expats, and the recent opening of its $15.5 billion Hamad International Airport has prompted a wave of worry from some residents.

British expat Malcolm Goddard told Doha News that he has been frustrated by the lack of information available on what Qatar is doing to manage Ebola:

“I have tried to contact The Supreme Health Council in Doha along with the World Health Organization in Qatar but have not received any feedback from them yet.

Working in the health and safety industry, it’s something I feel that should be monitored with new workers joining sites on a daily basis. Keeping in mind that Qatar has a large number of African workers as well and visitors entering Qatar one would think this would be a topic of discussion.”

Australian expat Tracy Blacksmith also expressed concern:

“I’m scared, we have people from West Africa coming to Qatar, is there any precautions at the airport? Is Hamad International Airport on alert? It’s kinda frightening!”

Response

Addressing these worries, healthcare officials have said that Ebola is less contagious than the flu, because it can only spread through contact with the blood and bodily fluids of those who are infected.

Speaking to Doha News, Peter Cameron, Hamad Medical Corp.’s chairman of emergency and medicine, said:

“With Qatar’s airport being a major hub for travelers, we have been on high alert, particularly upon hearing that the virus has traveled by air.

We are always reminding our nursing and medical staff to immediately isolate all ill West Africans who are coming to our hospitals – even if they have small symptoms such as a fever. The initial presentation can be very vague and we are fully aware of this. We are always following WHO and CDC recommendations for dealing with the virus.”

Cameron added that Qatar has already had experience handling infectious illnesses like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and influenza in the past.

In terms of travel, Dubai-based Emirates Airlines became the first major international carrier to suspend all flights to Guinea on Saturday, where over 470 cases and 350 deaths have been reported.

qatar airways flight

Qatar Airways, however, has not followed suit with any restrictions. The national carrier, which flies to over 140 destinations, released a statement on it website today, saying:

“The health and wellbeing of our passengers and staff is of upmost importance to Qatar Airways and we would like to reassure you that we are monitoring the situation very closely and are in contact with both local and international health and aviation organisations to ensure that all necessary and appropriate measures are in place to protect our passengers, our staff and the general public.”

Saudi restrictions

Elsewhere in the Gulf, Saudi Arabia has upped its airport screenings to prevent the virus from entering its borders.

KSA’s Ministry of Health has also banned Muslim pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia from performing Umrah and Haj this season because of concerns about the spread of the Ebola virus.

However, Tawfiq Ahmad Khoja, director-general of the GCC executive health office, recently told news media that concerns about an actual outbreak in the region are low:

“The disease does not constitute any fears to Gulf countries … The symptoms and the incubation period are fast; therefore, it is highly unlikely that Ebola cases might reach the kingdom (Saudi).”

According to WHO, the incubation period for Ebola ranges from two to 21 days.

Ebola

This is not the first time there has been an Ebola outbreak, which has been around since 1976. But health and government officials say they have been taken aback by how quickly the virus has spread this time around.

Earlier this week, Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general, said “catastrophic” consequences await if the outbreak continues at this rate.

In response, health officials have announced plans to fast-track the development of an Ebola vaccine, which is expected be tested in humans next month.

But there are uncertainties.

In order for the vaccine to reach human testing, developing efforts depend on a number of possibilities: speedy regulatory approval of the trial, the first of its type in healthy humans; results proving the vaccine is safe and provokes an immune response; and, perhaps most crucial, the interest and investment dollars of the pharmaceutical industry.

WHO has warned everyone, particularly those traveling and working at health centers, to be on alert and take extra precautions.

With the hot and humid summer months upon us, the majority of Qatar residents are taking the opportunity to travel this season. Passengers are advised to check out WHO’s international travel fact sheet here for information and advice.

Thoughts?

20 COMMENTS

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DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago

So residents of countries where Ebola is rampant are not allowed in Saudi and Emirates has stopped flights, but Qatar Airways, for whom “The health and wellbeing of our passengers and staff is of upmost importance”, continues as usual.

By the way, Ebola victims can carry the disease with minimal symptoms for some time and still be contagious, and on long flights they can develop the symptoms in the air–i.e. screening passengers for visibly ill people is not sufficient, and the check-in agent is hardly qualified to do so.

Considering that so many people will be returning to Qatar over the next month, and that Doha is an international travel hub, this is not a time for Qatar to be lax.

Ahmed A
Ahmed A
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

Emirates has suspended flights to Guinea which has been the worst hit so far. It still operates to other African destinations. Qatar Airways does not fly to Guinea. Your comparison of the two airlines’ actions is inaccurate.

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
6 years ago

Why is it that Emirates is being so more pro-active than Qatar Airways in terms of safeguarding its passengers?

Emirates was the first airline to stop flying over Iraq and Syria following the Ukrainian disaster (Qatar Airways still does as far as I know)

Emirates is now the first to stop flying to countries were Ebola is the worst (but Qatar Airways continues to fly there)

Very worrying.

slblack
slblack
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

The reason is money.

Yacine
Yacine
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

No. The reason is commonsense. There are various ways to respond to emergencies and stopping flights is the most radicat one. Qatar Airways decided to be cautious and to monitor the situation carefully while at the same time not penalizing its customers.

Emirates just overreacted and you can see that clearly in the case of Iraq and Syria.

AviationFactCheck
AviationFactCheck
6 years ago
Reply to  DavidRSS8

Fact checking time.

1. “Emirates was the first airline to stop flying over Iraq and Syria following the Ukrainian disaster (Qatar Airways still does as far as I know)”

– Emirates has not stopped flying over Iraq, you can check this on publicly available flight tracking programs.
– Emirates still continues to fly INTO Iraq. You can verify this yourself on Emirates’ website through the flight status page.
– Qatar Airways DOES NOT fly into or over Syria.
– Emirates continued flying into and over Syria far longer than Qatar Airways.
– Emirates flies into Kabul, Afghanistan when Qatar Airways has postponed plans to launch services to Afghanistan due to security reasons.
– Qatar Airways suspended services to Libya earlier than Emirates. Qatar Airways also invested in improving security at foreign airports at their own expenses.

2. “Emirates is now the first to stop flying to countries were Ebola is the worst (but Qatar Airways continues to fly there)”

– Emirates only suspended Conakry in Guinea. Qatar Airways does not serve Conakry.
– Qatar Airways only serves Lagos, Nigeria in West Africa. Emirates continues to serve Abidjan, Abuja, Accra, Dakar, Lagos in Western Africa.

AviationFactCheck
AviationFactCheck
6 years ago

Both Emirates and Qatar Airways are very conservative when it comes to security and invest way more into security arrangements than what is required by regulatory authorities. I think it is not fair to single out anyone of them as not being pro-active, Qatar Airways for example was the first airline in the world to pass the IATA Operational Safety Audit.

٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶
٩(͡๏̯͡๏)۶
6 years ago

Please provide a source to substantiate this statement, I am unable to find anything compelling in the public domain. Thanks,

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago

What you say regarding Iraq airspace is in direct contradiction to what the press is reporting. Can you explain what the rest of us don’t understand?

“A growing number of airlines are diverting their planes away from Iraq amid concerns about the danger posed by Islamic militants.

Qantas, Lufthansa and Royal Jordanian were the latest to find alternative routes in light of warnings from both US and European regulators.

They joined Virgin Atlantic, Air France and Emirates in quitting theconflict zone, amid warnings of the possibility of a disaster similar to the shooting down of MH17 in east Ukraine last month.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/aviation/11007667/Three-more-airlines-quit-war-torn-Iraq-over-safety-fears.html

AviationFactCheck
AviationFactCheck
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Michael,

My post wasn’t about Iraqi airspace, it was in response to what David said that Emirates have stopped overflying Iraq and Qatar Airways hasn’t. I do not follow the other airlines, and yes many have started to avoid overflying Iraq but most including Emirates continue.

A few moments ago an A380 EK87 from Dubai to Zurich has just entered Iraqi airspace along with many other Emirates flights today. Clearly the press coverage that Emirates has completely stopped overflying Iraqi airspace is not correct.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago

I read a few articles and am no clearer. Some say the Emirates won’t use Iraqi airspace for European flights, and others say Emirates won’t use Iraqi airspace that is above areas of conflict or under rebel control.

There is certainly a lack of clarity around this issue. But for the casual observer to read just the headlines in the mainstream press you would be forgiven for thinking that Emirates do not fly in Iraqi airspace. Clearly this is not the full picture.

AviationFactCheck
AviationFactCheck
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Correct, the general press is not a good source for aviation information. They generally don’t have specialists or rely on really bad ‘analysts’ especially the ones that appear on news programs right after crashes, Tory Scott tweeted about that a few times.

Right now (at the time of publishing this post) Emirates flights to Copenhagen, Amsterdam and many others are over Iraqi airspace. Along with flights from British Airways, Etihad, FlyDubai, Turkish, Qatar Airways and others.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
6 years ago

Yes, and curiously the Emirates flights to London (EK15 & EK1) Glasgow (EK27) Manchester (EK17) are in Iranian airspace.

The most telling thing perhaps is that the Dubai Airwing flight to Stanstead is also over Iran, not Iraq. I wonder why the lack of consistency?

Guest
Guest
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Many flights to Europe from the Gulf overfly Iranian airspace anyways, usually in the winter due to more favourable winds. Iranian airspace also can’t handle a sudden increase in air traffic, they don’t have the capacity for that due to older equipment and air traffic procedures.

Guest
Guest
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

Also I want to add there are MANY factors that come into flight planning, such as temporary restrictions, capacity and flow requirements, weather etc. Some QR flights to Europe today are overflying Iran too by the way.

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago
Reply to  Guest

I flew Doha to Houston in June and when we were boarding the captain noted that we were diverting to Iran airspace to avoid Iraq.

AviationFactCheck
AviationFactCheck
6 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Edited my comments to consolidate them:

Many flights to Europe from the Gulf overfly Iranian airspace anyways, usually in the winter due to more favourable winds. Iranian airspace also can’t handle a sudden increase in air traffic, they don’t have the capacity for that due to older equipment and air traffic procedures.

There are MANY factors that come into flight planning, such as temporary restrictions, capacity and flow requirements, weather etc. Some QR flights to Europe today are overflying Iran too by the way.

If you are interested about specific operational requirements for Iraqi airspace.

The FAA (which governs US operators) has deemed that operations above Iraqi airspace when above 30,000 feet are safe even with the current threat.

The Iraqi authorities has informed pilots to exercise caution when flying below 23,500 feet, with operations above that altitude to continue as normal.

bleh!!
bleh!!
6 years ago

Umm this comment…..i know not qatar but still when they say gulf countries…
However, Tawfiq Ahmad Khoja, director-general of the GCC executive health office, recently told news media that concerns about an actual outbreak in the region are low:
“The disease does not constitute any fears to Gulf countries … The symptoms and the incubation period are fast; therefore, it is highly unlikely that Ebola cases might reach the kingdom (Saudi).”
According to WHO, the incubation period for Ebola ranges from two to 21 days.

as per WHO website Incubation Period is the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms.

if the incubation period is 2-21 days how can it NOT constitute any fears in gulf countries. in a time where we can fly from one point to another in this world in 1 or max 2 days how is it not fearful. just my thoughts!!

as for the flights i think MR. David has a point!

Chilidog
Chilidog
6 years ago

It may merely be a translation error in the article and Hamad announcement, but “airborne” and “traveled by air” have different meanings. To hear a virus is airborne makes me more worried, as this means I can breathe it in and be infected, but as far as I’ve heard Ebola requires transmission through bodily fluids, meaning it’s not airborne. However, a virus “traveling by air” doesn’t really alarm me since just about any virus can travel by air as long as it’s host gets on an airplane. If there are any experts in outbreaks out there, feel free to correct me.

Curiosity Killed the Cat
Curiosity Killed the Cat
6 years ago

Saudi Arabian health officials are testing a patient suspected of contracting the deadly Ebola virus as fears grow the disease is starting to spread beyond west Africa.
The Ebola epidemic has so far been contained to west African nations, where almost 900 people have died from more than 1600 confirmed cases.
But Saudi Arabia is now testing samples from a man who recently returned from a business trip to Sierra Leone for suspected Ebola infection, the Health Ministry said.
It said the man, a Saudi in his 40s, was at a hospital in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.

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