RIYADH: MD RASOOLDEEN
Published — Saturday 13 July 2013
Last update 13 July 2013 4:50 am
To prevent the spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases will not get Haj visas this year, the Ministry of Health announced here yesterday.
“This new rule will be applicable to the forthcoming Haj and the subsequent Umrah seasons,” Health Ministry spokesman Khalid Al-Mirghalani told Arab News yesterday. He said Saudi missions abroad would be following the strict instructions of the Health Ministry sent to it by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Haj and Umrah visas will not be issued by Saudi missions to elderly pilgrims and those suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and other illnesses involving the heart, kidneys and the respiratory system.
Others excluded are patients with immune deficiencies, terminal malignant diseases, pregnant women and children, the spokesman said.
Al-Mirghalani did not stipulate an age limit but said the elderly who are feeble and medically unfit to travel would not be considered for pilgrimage visas.
The new coronavirus has affected 66 people, which included 38 deaths since September last year in the Kingdom. The ministry has taken all preventive measures to combat the spread of the disease with the help of local and international medical experts including officials from the World Health Organization.
In addition to these requirements, he said the ministry had spelt out the quarantine regulations of the Kingdom. They include a valid certificate of vaccination against meningitis 10 days before the departure of pilgrims to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, and for polio vaccinations by pilgrims hailing from countries where the disease is prevalent.
There is also an optional requirement for vaccination against influenza as a precaution against flu attacks, he added.
He said the ministry is insisting on pilgrims having proper personal hygiene. They should also ensure hygienic cooking, storing, transporting and serving methods to avoid diarrhea, vomiting, food poisoning, dysentery, typhoid and cholera.
“Hands should be washed before eating. Disposable shaving kits should be used.”
Wearing masks made of cloth during the performance of various Haj rituals will be very useful in preventing respiratory infections such as colds, coughs, sore throats and pneumonia.
This year, the ministry is focusing on preventing food poisoning. Pilgrims have been asked not to keep their cooked food for more than two hours to avoid food poisoning. They should also wash fruits and green leaves before consumption. Meat and vegetables should not be washed together when preparing to cook.
Other health tips include covering their mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing and to not spit in the streets.
Saudi missions abroad will begin issuing Haj visas at the end of Ramadan.