RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will not grant Haj visa this year to the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases.
The Saudi ministry of health said on Saturday that it had taken the decision in order to prevent the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus from spreading.
The virus has so far claimed 38 lives in Saudi Arabia since September.
Haj and Umra visas will not be issued by Saudi missions to the elderly and those suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes and illnesses involving the heart, kidneys and the respiratory system.
Others on the list include patients suffering from immune deficiencies, terminal malignant diseases, pregnant women and children; a spokesman for the ministry was quoted as saying in the local press.
Saudi missions abroad will begin issuing Haj visas at the end of Ramazan.
“The decision will be applicable to the forthcoming Haj and the subsequent Umra seasons,” Arab News said, quoting the health ministry’s spokesman, Khalid Al Mirghalani, as saying.
Mr Mirghalani did not stipulate an age-limit, but said the elderly who were feeble and medically unfit to travel would not be considered for the pilgrimage visa.
In addition to these requirements, Mr Mirghalani said, the ministry had spelt out quarantine regulations. They include a valid certificate of vaccination against meningitis 10 days before the departure of pilgrims for Makkah and Madina, and for polio vaccinations by pilgrims hailing from countries where the disease is prevalent. There was also an optional requirement for vaccination against influenza as a precaution against flu attacks, he added.
He said the ministry was insisting on pilgrims having proper personal hygiene. They should also ensure hygienic cooking, storing, transporting and serving methods to avoid diarrhoea, 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 Haj rituals will be very useful in preventing respiratory infections such as cold, cough, sore throats and pneumonia, the ministry of health suggested.
The ministry has been focusing on preventing food poisoning.
Pilgrims have been asked not to keep cooked food for more than two hours. People have been advised to wash fruits and vegetables before consumption.