British Muslims warned against Hajj bookings

The Kaaba is seen at the Grand Mosque, almost empty of worshippers after Saudi authorities suspended umrah for fear of the novel coronavirus, Mecca, Saudi Arabia, March 6, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 April 2020

British Muslims warned against Hajj bookings

  • With the Umrah pilgrimage already suspended, concerns are mounting over whether Hajj will take place this year
  • The Council of British Hajjis encouraged people to “defer making Hajj bookings"

LONDON: British Muslims are being urged to hold off on entering into contracts with Hajj tour operators due to uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Council of British Hajjis (CBHUK) issued the advice on Wednesday, in partnership with the British Consulate in Jeddah, City of London Police, Birmingham Trading Standards and the Civil Aviation Authority.

With the Umrah pilgrimage already suspended, concerns are mounting over whether Hajj will take place this year.

Rashid Mogradia, founder and CEO of the CBHUK, encouraged people to “defer making Hajj bookings until there is a clear picture on the spread of the coronavirus.”

He praised Saudi authorities for “taking the health and wellbeing of Muslims from all over the world wanting to undertake the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage seriously by suspending the lesser pilgrimage of Umrah.”

The British Consul-General in Jeddah, Seif Usher, advised British Muslims to “wait and monitor announcements from the Saudi authorities before planning Hajj and Umrah.”

“The FCO is currently advising British nationals against all non-essential travel worldwide for an indefinite period,” he added.   
Yasmin Qureshi, a British MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hajj and Umrah, urged British Muslims to follow the advice of the Saudi authorities and “put on hold their Hajj plans until there is a clear picture with the coronavirus pandemic.”

Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting center for fraud and cybercrime, warned that “criminals will use every opportunity they can to defraud innocent people,” and the Hajj and Umrah market “is no different.”

To avoid falling victim to Hajj-related fraud, Action Fraud and the CBHUK encouraged people to make sure that they have booked with an ATOL holder, that it has been issued with an ATOL certificate, and that it is approved by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

The advice also encouraged people with existing bookings to hold off from making further payment instalments until the Saudi authorities announce Hajj 2020.


Proteins in COVID-19 patients’ blood could predict severity of illness, study finds

Updated 19 min 43 sec ago

Proteins in COVID-19 patients’ blood could predict severity of illness, study finds

  • The markers could lead to the development of a test that would help doctors predict how ill a patient might get
  • Could also provide new targets for the development of potential treatments for the disease

LONDON: Scientists have found 27 key proteins in the blood of people infected with COVID-19 which they say could act as predictive biomarkers for how ill a patient could become with the disease.
In research published in the journal Cell Systems on Tuesday, scientists at Britain’s Francis Crick Institute and Germany’s Charite Universitaetsmedizin Berlin found the proteins are present in different levels in COVID-19 patients, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
The markers could lead to the development of a test that would help doctors predict how ill a patient might get when infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, they said, and could also provide new targets for the development of potential treatments for the disease.
The COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 374,000 people worldwide and infected more than 6.7 million.
Doctors and scientists say those infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, respond differently — with some developing no symptoms at all, while others need to be hospitalized and others suffer fatal infection.
“A test to help doctors predict whether a COVID-19 patient is likely to become critical or not would be invaluable,” said Christoph Messner, an expert in molecular biology at the Crick Institute who co-led the research.
He said such tests would help doctors decide how best manage the disease for each patient, as well as identify those most at risk of needing hospital treatment or intensive care.
Messner’s team used a method called mass spectrometry to rapidly test for the presence and quantity of various proteins in blood plasma from 31 COVID-19 patients at Berlin’s Charite hospital. They then validated their results in 17 other patients with COVID-19 at the same hospital, and in 15 healthy people who acted as controls.
Three of the key proteins identified were linked with interleukin IL-6, a protein known to cause inflammation and also a known marker for severe COVID-19 symptoms.