A man uses a body thermal scanner on a student wearing a protective mask as a precautionary measure against the spread of the virus at a school in Manila, Philippines, Friday, January 31, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Riyadh: The Gulf health ministers have commended the UAE's effective measures against the novel coronavirus after keeping suspected Arab nationals inside the county for the required quarantine time before allowing them to return back to their respective countries.

This came as the health ministers from the Gulf states gathered today for an emergency meeting in the Saudi capital to discuss the growing concerns over the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.

The ministers affirmed that all precautionary measures have been taken to ensure cross-border preparedness against the virus in line with the International Health Regulations (2005) approved by the World Health Organisation, and in implementation of the Unified Health Procedures Manual in GCC countries, approved at the 39th Summit in Riyadh in December 2018.

They mandated relevant committees working in this regard to follow up all relevant developments and share information pertaining to the virus outbreak. They have praised the anti-epidemic efforts made by the People's Republic of China, and expressed their full support in this respect.

A delegation from UAE, headed by Abdul Rahman bin Mohammad bin Nasser Al Owais, Minister of Health and Prevention, attended the emergency meeting at the HQ of the GCC General Secretariat.

The meeting reviewed the current situation in each country, including procedures followed, and statistics related to the disease and contingency and preparedness plans.

The emergency meeting follows the WHO's announcement on Sunday about a total of nine confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.

The extraordinary meeting was held at the request of GCC Secretary General Dr Nayef bin Falah Al Hajraf and aims to identify the readiness of the six countries in detecting and confronting the deadly virus.

Dr Nayef Al Hajraf stressed the desperate need for maximising health efforts among GCC member states in responding to emergency cases.

He indicated that the GCC Communicable Diseases Committee held an emergency meeting on 29th January to explore coordination and cooperation mechanisms with regards to emergency response and prevention. The committee recommended a set of preventive protocols and measures including screening of arrivals at airports and intensifying public awareness

The outbreak of Covid-19 has claimed 1,874 lives and according to latest WHO statistics there are 71,429 laboratory-confirmed cases, of which 2,162 are new.