Foreign Umrah pilgrims with flu-like symptoms will have to undergo tests for the deadly coronavirus when they arrive in the Kingdom, according to the Health Ministry.
Abdullah Asiri, director of the ministry’s infection control department, said the measure was aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
The move comes just two months before Ramadan, when Saudi Arabia hosts about two million pilgrims.
“The medical examination for coronavirus requires modern equipment and sophisticated technology. Most of the pilgrims come from countries that do not have this equipment,” he said.
Asiri, however, stressed that there is no evidence yet that the disease had spread widely abroad.
The Kingdom has reported 24 cases of the virus, with nine fatalities. The recent cases included two men, aged 48 and 58.
The ministry said earlier that it had stopped the spread of coronavirus from Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province to other parts of the Kingdom. There were a few cases in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, but no further infections have been reported. “No new cases of the virus have been found in other parts of the Kingdom,” Dr. Ziad Al-Memish, undersecretary for public health at the ministry, told Arab News.
Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health security and environment at the World Health Organization (WHO), who visited the Eastern Province last Saturday, said the Kingdom has taken the coronavirus situation seriously and taken proper surveillance and control measures.
Saudi Arabia has over the years taken precautions against various contagious diseases, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.
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