A residence visa applicant undergoes an X-ray scan at a medical fitness centre. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: There is good news for UAE residents on the eve of World Tuberculosis Day observed on March 24. All first degree relatives of UAE residents such as parents, spouses or offspring will be exempted from deportation if found with active tuberculosis (TB) or scars and given a one-year conditional residence visa.

They will be provided treatment free of cost at any of the Ministry of Health and Prevention’s designated treatment centres as per the new ministerial decree no 5 of 2016, officials of the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention said on Tuesday.

Dr Hussain Al Rand, Assistant Undersecretary for Health Centres and Clinics, and Dr Nada Al Marzouqi, Director for Preventive Medicine at the ministry, clarified all aspects relevant to the decree.

What are the highlights of the ministerial Decree no 5 of 2016?

Decree no 5 of 2016 issued by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, stipulates the application of preventive measures and procedures established by Federal Law no 14 of 2014 on communicable disease control.

These include communicable diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, leprosy, pulmonary TB and syphilis, among others. Applications of individuals applying for a new resident visa will be rejected if they test positive for any of these diseases.

However, in case of tuberculosis, residents who are applying for renewal of visa and found to have active TB or old scars, will be exempted and allowed to stay on a one-year visa where they will be on strict treatment protocol and tested after the treatment and allowed to stay if free of the disease.

A resident with a spouse, child or parents with active or non-active TB, the first degree relatives who were previously denied visas, will now be allowed to come into the country on a one-year visa provided they are compliant with the treatment protocol. Treatment at all designated health centres will be free of charge.

Other categories who enjoy exemption and will get the one-year conditional residency are those who come on investor visa, and diplomats.

These visa applications will be looked at on the merits of the individual case.

Other highlights of the decree

First-time resident visa applicants need not have a health card/insurance or National ID for the first Ministry of Health medical verification. They can get the medical check-up done and only when they clear that do they need to proceed spending money on the issuance of health card/insurance or national ID.

In Abu Dhabi, there is no health card and Dubai will do away with health cards by the end of 2016. Here those who clear the medical tests can proceed for mandatory insurance cover before the visa is issued, while in other emirates they have a choice of having either the health card or insurance, whichever they choose.

Q: What does the law say on viral hepatitis?

Children’s nannies, housekeepers, domestic labourers and supervisors of nurseries and kindergartens who are going to renew their residence visa will be subjected to hepatitis Type B test.

Individuals working in salons, beauty centres and health clubs, and sanitation workers will be required to be screened for both hepatitis B and C.

If tested positive for either strain, the person will not be allowed to work in these categories of jobs and will be allowed to stay only if they change the purpose of residence within a period of not more than two weeks from the date of notification.

Residents in these categories who test negative will be vaccinated for these viral strains and can produce this certificate at the time of renewal of residency.

Q: In case of a labourer migrating from one job to another and applying for a new work visa and who is found with TB scars, will he be treated as a new residency visa case?

A: No. Since the labourer has been in the UAE and is only changing his job, he will be allowed to stay on the one-year visa provided he undergoes treatment.

Q: What about children who turn adults and have to take new student visas for colleges here?

A: These students will fall in the first degree relatives’ category and will be allowed to stay.

Q: How will the ministry ensure that the patient is compliant?

A: The patient will already be part of our system of invigilation and advised on the centres where he needs to proceed. The treatment will be carried out according to the international TB treatment protocol the UAE is part of. The treatment will include hospital isolation and treatment in case of active TB and consultation and medication in case of non-active TB.

In cases of active TB, the patient usually is rendered stable and non-infective within four weeks of treatment but we will keep her or him in isolation until he is infection-free.

Others will have to report for periodic screening and medication. Any patient who follows the international TB treatment protocol will be free of infection and not a threat to the general public.

In case a patient is non-compliant or misses his treatment, we will inform his sponsor and terminate his residency immediately.