WHO experts to probe Saudi MERS outbreak

Updated 18 May 2014
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WHO experts to probe Saudi MERS outbreak

Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) will arrive in the Kingdom on April 28 to investigate the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus outbreak in the country.
This comes after the National Scientific Committee for Infectious Diseases (NSCID) held a teleconference with WHO officials in Geneva and Cairo on Tuesday, according to an official from the Ministry of Health.
MERS has killed 71 people and infected 205 since September 2012. There have been 37 infections at Jeddah hospitals recently. Around 2,500 blood samples were tested for the virus in the western province, the official said.
Meanwhile, addressing a meeting on Wednesday in Jeddah, Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said that the NSCID has organized field visits in Jeddah to get first-hand information about the virus. “Hundreds of samples are being tested throughout the Kingdom from suspected cases,” the minister said.
He was speaking at the fifth consultative meeting of senior health officials, the ministry's key strategy meeting.
Al-Rabeeah said compensation is under consideration for all medical workers treating people with infectious diseases. “These officials are doing an excellent service for the sake of the nation,” he said.
The minister said that according to the WHO, there is no cure for coronavirus infections. However, he said the ministry has the situation under control and urged people not to panic or spread rumors about the outbreak.
Al-Rabeeah said the sudden outbreak of the virus in Jeddah was mainly due to the weather changing from winter to spring. The ministry has taken steps at all hospitals in the city to tackle cases of coronavirus and other infections, he said.
Sami Badawood, Jeddah Health Affairs director, told Arab News on Wednesday that face masks do not protect people against the coronavirus.
“While it is true that wearing a face mask can, to some extent, prevent the spread of influenza and other communicable diseases, and protect lungs from dust during sandstorms, masks cannot stop the spread of the coronavirus,” Badawood said.
“However, the coronavirus is also not considered a communicable disease,” he said. “Patients can only become infected after direct contact with an infected patient.”
“The Health Ministry in Jeddah adheres to international standards and World Health Organization norms to treat cases,” he said. “The ministry has established a special unit to follow up on cases around the clock. Officials have ascertained that the situation is completely normal after careful observation and extensive follow-ups.”
“Umrah pilgrims need not panic since there have been no cases reported from being in large crowds,” said Badawood. “In fact, there has not been a single case among pilgrims in Makkah so far.”
Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, Makkah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah and Jeddah Gov. Prince Mishaal bin Majid are closely following up on the situation, and the ministry is using state-of-the-art technology to analyze samples collected from patients suspected to be infected with the virus,” he said.
He said people on social media have blown the outbreak "out of proportion." "The ministry has also not found that any of the cases can be traced to camels.”


First group of Sri Lankan Muslims begin Hajj journey

Updated 17 July 2019
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First group of Sri Lankan Muslims begin Hajj journey

  • 4,000 to partake in this year’s pilgrimage after Saudi Arabia increased quota

COLOMBO: Nearly 180 Sri Lankan Hajj pilgrims left for Saudi Arabia on Monday night, but not before thanking the Kingdom for the comprehensive facilities offered to them.

Mohamed Hashim Mohamed Haleem, Sri Lanka’s minister of postal services and Muslim religious affairs, said that this year’s issuing of Hajj visas was smooth due to the new e-Hajj services introduced by the Saudi government. 

“We were able to process all 4,000 Hajj visas efficiently. All of them were issued well in time,” Haleem said.

He added that officials from his ministry will be available at the airport to assist the pilgrims with their departures.

The minister said the flights of pilgrims this year will be ferried by both Saudi Arabian Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines. Haleem, who intends to participate in this year’s Hajj, said that the last flight of Sri Lankan pilgrims will leave Colombo on Aug. 7.

Sajjath Mohammed, a journalist from Madawala News, praised the e-Hajj service, saying: “The biometric services for the visas were available to pilgrims in Kandy and Batticaloa in addition to Colombo, the capital of the island.”

Rizmi Reyal, president of the International Airline Ticketing Academy in Sri Lanka, said that this year the Hajj services from Colombo have been enhanced to give a better experience to the pilgrims. He thanked the Saudi government, the Muslim Religious Affairs Ministry in Colombo, the Saudi Embassy in Colombo and the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh for playing their part in these improvements.

The Sri Lankan government will also send a medical team to attend to any urgent needs of the pilgrims before they are taken to the nearest medical facilities in the two holy cities.