Oman


Tight screening for Muscat-bound passengers from Africa



Muscat: Special screenings are in place for Muscat-bound passengers from African countries.

Speaking to Times of Oman, Sami Muctar, Area Manager- Oman, Ethiopian Airlines, said the airlines would like to update its passengers on additional precautionary measures being taken against the outbreak of Ebola.

"Although Ethiopian Airlines does not have direct flights to the highly affected countries categorized as level 1 alert by the World Health Organisation — Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — the airline has been taking extraordinary and precautionary measures against the outbreak of Ebola," he said. Ethiopian Airlines operates four flights a week to the Muscat International Airport.

Precautionary testing is being conducted by health officials on passengers before boarding the flights.

"This is in line with the requirements of some countries' national health authorities. The airlines require passengers to fill in surveillance forms before boarding the aircraft," he said.

The flying crew have been trained to avoid contact with body fluids and have been given necessary protection material such as gloves, sanitiser and masks.

"Flying crew has been made aware to remain vigilant and observe the condition of passengers and report any sign of the suspected cases," another senior official of an airline, which operates flights to Muscat from Africa, said.

Aircraft isolation
In Muscat, officials are working on a plan to isolate the aircraft if there are any suspected cases.

"As part of the plan, the aircraft will be first taken to a remote bay and all passengers will be screened after their arrival. While passengers without any symptoms will be cleared and shifted to the terminal for immigration and customs clearance, those coming from Ebola-hit countries with symptoms will be directly shifted to an isolated place," it added.

Then the aircraft cleaning and fumigation will be conducted as per international standards and the advice of professional health authorities.

"For this, all the staff of the airlines, security officers, immigration controllers and other employees working will be briefed on the necessary precautionary measures in their daily activities," it said.

Though no suspected cases have been reported in the Sultanate, the sensitization effort is intended to be purely precautionary and in line with international best practice.

The virus has infected more than 2,600 and killed more than 1,400.

It added that the baggage of these flights will be kept separately by the concerned airlines in their custody, and said that disinfection of the flight will be carried out once all passengers are de-boarded.

"Flights will be allowed to allow boarding of the next lot of passengers only after 30 minutes of disinfection," it added.

Though threat from the epidemic to Oman is currently described as remote, on the inward bound flights to Muscat International Airport, passengers and crews have to fill-in a 'Self Declaration Form.'

A hot line has been established at the National Centre for Medical Response and Public Health to answer all queries raised by the healthcare staff and to be used for immediate notification for any suspected cases.

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