More than 2mn pilgrims successfully performed Hajj this year and about 11,200 pilgrims from Oman participated in the annual gathering in Saudi Arabia, which has been the centre of MERS-CoV spread.
Pilgrims from Oman started their return from October 18, and the Ministry of Health has said that there is no screening process for returning Hajjis. “In Saudi Arabia there have been no alarming spread of MERS-CoV, and as yet in Oman, there have been no reports of the virus either,” said H E Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Obaid al Saeedi, Minister of Health.
On screening of returning Hajjis, H E Dr Saeedi said that pilgrims were informed prior to their departure about communicable and infectious diseases, including MERS-CoV. “They were told to look for any symptoms related to MERS-CoV and report to the nearest authority while they were back in the country,” he said.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) latest update, till now 139 laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with MERS-CoV have been reported, leading to 60 deaths,a majority of which have been in Saudi Arabia. Other countries in GCC where cases have been reported include Qatar and the UAE.
The WHO too does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to the virus nor does it currently recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions.
The existing situation of MERS-CoV would also be part of WHO's 60th Session of the Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean, to be held in Muscat from October 27-30. “Anything considered to be a public health issue will be discussed, including the MERS-CoV,” H E Dr Saeedi said.
The minister added that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have overtaken infectious diseases as the leading cause of morbidity, disability, and mortality. “NCDs like cancer, cardio vascular issues, diabetes, renal and respiratory ailments are unfortunately increasing in the region. And countries in GCC are leading the world in number of diabetic patients,” he said.
Non-communicable diseases kill hundreds of people every year, and a large proportion of these deaths occur before the age of 60, during the most productive period of life. The magnitude of these diseases continues to rise year after year, and their consequences reach far beyond the health sector, the minister said. “A rate of car ownership of 69 per cent in Oman may be a hallmark of affluence but it also unfortunately means minimal physical exertion to visit a
place. Urbanisation has already brought with it a tide of changed dietary and behavioural patterns that directly impact obesity, among other concerns.”