Locusts Africa
Picture for illustrative purposes: a swarm of desert locusts Image Credit: AP

Dubai: The National Biosecurity Committee held its second meeting of 2020 to examine multiple relevant issues, and review the status of the deliverables and recommendations of its first meeting of 2020 and second meeting of 2019.

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, presided over the session.

As the first order of business, the members discussed updates on the desert locust situation in the country and the plan to address it. Current climatic conditions have helped an outbreak of locusts advance across East Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Red Sea coastal areas.

The meeting featured a briefing on the efforts made by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) so far to stop the swarms of locusts from spreading. These include developing the online Early Biosecurity Notification System that can be used to report sightings of the pests, monitoring the movement of locust swarms, informing the concerned entities of the results of the monitoring exercise and of the status of the outbreak in neighboring countries, and conducting pest control operations at farms, if needed.

The members recommended to continue monitoring the situation and keep intervention teams prepared. They will also follow up on the approval of the Desert Locust Control Plan and work to enhance the capabilities of its implementing entities.

The second item on the agenda was the National Plan for Fighting Zoonotic Diseases and Pandemics. Given that 58 percent of infectious diseases in people are zoonotic, and 73 percent of emerging diseases are communicable between humans and animals, the Ministry will lead the development and implementation of the plan with the support of other relevant entities.

Moreover, the Committee discussed the unified guidelines for sanitization processes and the use of disinfectants and detergents that were issued by MOCCAE in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Prevention and other stakeholders, and distributed in May 2020. The guidelines serve as a reference for local authorities on building disinfection best practices aimed at combating the spread of COVID-19.

The members were also briefed about the reports that the Ministry issues weekly during the pandemic, including a report on the numbers of inbound and outbound live sheep and cows, and a report on COVID-19 disinfection. This was followed by a presentation of the results of the National Mosquito Control Program that MOCCAE launched in December 2019.

Furthermore, the Committee reviewed the status of the deliverables and recommendations of its last meeting, including the approval and distribution of the Biosecurity Manual for Ports that took place in February 2020. Subsequently, the Ministry held a virtual workshop for the stakeholders to introduce them to the contents of the publication.

Among the recommendations of the second meeting of 2019 were the incorporation of biosecurity into the curricula of universities and other higher education institutions, as well as the circulation of the Laboratory Biosecurity Manual. In addition, the members evaluated the progress of the upgrade of the online Early Biosecurity Notification System, set for completion in Q4 2020. MOCCAE has developed a manual for the upgraded system, and plans to conduct workshops for stakeholders in Q3 2020.