Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Several Gulf states unanimously agreed to update and reform plans to deal with the threat of an Ebola outbreak during a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Riyadh on Wednesday.
GCC states approved a set of recommendations to deal with a possible Ebola outbreak, including plans to activate an early warning detection system, as well as integrating medical diagnoses and sharing information.
The GCC also agreed to share any medicines or vaccines among member states, purchasing any medicines or vaccines through a centralized mechanism.
The GCC Health Minister’s Council, held in Riyadh on Wednesday, discussed a number of issues related to Ebola prevention and treatment. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Tawfiq Bin Ahmed Khoja, Director-General of the Executive Board of the GCC’s Health Ministers Council.
Khoja said that the GCC is moving to put together a comprehensive Ebola policy based on the spreading Ebola epidemic in West Africa after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the situation there an international public health emergency. He added that the upcoming Hajj season in Saudi Arabia, where millions of pilgrims from around the world are expected to visit Saudi Arabia, means that an early monitoring system must be in place as soon as possible.
The GCC’s intensifying focus on Ebola comes as WHO announced that Ebola deaths in West Africa topped 1,000 following an outbreak of the virus in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Although Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar have warned citizens to avoid travelling to West Africa, the GCC has yet to issue any formal travel ban or advisory.
Health experts from within the GCC discussed the latest international developments regarding the spread of the Ebola virus, in addition to giving advice and guidance about what precautionary measures should be taken, as well as monitoring and emergency responses.
GCC member states called on Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars to issue a fatwa about how to deal with suspected Ebola cases, including how to deal with the bodies of patients suspected of dying from the virus. Islamic burial customs call for the body of the deceased to be washed before burial, while burial usually takes place no more than 24 hours after death.