KUWAIT: Senior health ministry officials hold a press conference yesterday. - KUNA

KUWAIT: The health ministry has taken all measures needed to ensure the safety of citizens and expats against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), said the ministry's Undersecretary Mustafa Redha. The official's remarks were made at a press conference yesterday after reports were issued by a World Health Organization (WHO) body that a South Korean who arrived in his country from Kuwait was infected with the coronavirus. The ministry has raised the level of alert to contain any possible cases of the disease. The ministry's medical team also took samples from those who interacted with the patient, it said, adding that the samples were all negative.

The Yonhap news agency had reported that 10 people in South Korea who came into contact with the infected patient and showed symptoms of the disease tested negative. On Saturday, the 61-year-old man was diagnosed with the first case of MERS in South Korea in about three years after returning home from a business trip to Kuwait from Aug 16 to Sept 6. He was rushed to the emergency room of a medical center in southern Seoul on arrival at Incheon International Airport.

As of Tuesday evening, a total of 21 people who had come in close contact with the MERS patient, including those on the plane, such as flight attendants, passengers, medical staff and immigration officials, have been quarantined in their homes and are being monitored for signs of MERS. South Korea was hit by a MERS outbreak in 2015, resulting in 38 deaths and 186 people testing positive for the coronavirus.

Later yesterday, Redha met South Korean Ambassador Hong Young-ki. During the meeting, the two sides discussed ways to promote cooperation in various fields, particularly the medical field, since it rapidly changes and requires constant follow-up on the latest global updates, the health ministry said in a statement. They also addressed cooperation in exchanging medical expertise, in addition to mutual visits between Kuwaiti and South Korean specialists to open new prospects for fruitful action. The meeting also tackled ways to bolster the two countries' health cooperation and partnership, in addition to discussing health programs and projects aimed to enhance medical care in Kuwait.

The health ministry also said yesterday that reports in neighboring countries about the spread of cholera are mere "media reports". Assistant undersecretary for public health Majida Al-Qattan commented on the reports at a press conference, stressing "all precautionary measures were taken to counter cholera and prevent it from spreading". She confirmed that no information has been received from WHO and other relevant organizations about the outbreak of the epidemic, explaining that the ministry issued directives to intensify epidemiological surveillance of the disease and to take the highest precautions.

Although WHO hasn't announced any cholera epidemic outbreak in the region, the ministry has provided laboratory reagents and diagnostic capabilities for sampling and laboratory diagnosis of suspected cases. As part of its concern for the safety of citizens and residents in Kuwait, the ministry has circulated all the treatment protocols issued by WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control, Qattan clarified.

She stressed the ministry's keenness to prevent the transmission of such diseases to Kuwait, adding that the ministry is constantly following the latest developments on the cholera epidemic in coordination with the concerned authorities, WHO and other international organizations. She urged travelers, especially children under the age of five, patients suffering from chronic diseases and pregnant women not to travel to some countries suspected to have any presence of the epidemic to avoid any infections.

Separately, the health ministry announced yesterday the formation of a committee to examine the death of a Kuwaiti girl at a hospital after her family accused an expatriate doctor of responsibility. The ministry said the committee will include physicians from Kuwait University's School of Medicine and the department of health, stressing the results of the investigation will be announced with full transparency.

Redha said in a press statement that technical investigations into the death of Dora Al-Haraz have begun, confirming that it will take legal action against anyone who is proven to be negligent in this case. On Tuesday, Health Minister Sheikh Basel Al-Sabah confirmed that the death of Dora will not pass unnoticed, adding the ministry has taken two steps in this regard - to suspend all who those who were treating the girl and imposing travel bans. The hospital management was also advised to make the necessary investigations to determine the circumstances of the accident.

MP Nasser Al-Dossari said the girl reportedly died of an injection given by an expatriate female doctor and demanded an investigation into the allegations. The lawmaker also demanded that authorities should not allow the doctor to leave the country before the probe is completed and legal actions are taken. - Agencies