Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has announced that individuals from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, where the Ebola virus is most prevalent, are not allowed to obtain visas in order to go on the Hajj or Umrah (Islamic Pilgrimage to Mecca).
A spokesman from the Saudi Ministry of Health said, “We have communicated the instructions to the officials of all ports of entry. We have trained our personnel on how to identify and deal with Ebola cases and control virus infection, should it happen.”
A man who had possibly contracted Ebola and was showing “symptoms of viral hemorrhagic fever” was admitted to a hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday. He died shortly thereafter, becoming the first person outside of Africa to be killed by the virus. The man was previously in Sierra Leone on a business trip.
According to the International Business Times, some 13.5 million Muslims populate the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. Guinea alone has 9.7 million Muslims, or 85% of its overall population. The Hajj is mandated in Islamic law – that all Muslims must make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetimes. Three million Muslims made the Hajj to Mecca in 2013.
The World Health Organization (WHO) met in Geneva Wednesday and Thursday in order to plan next steps in dealing with the spread of Ebola virus. WHO will decide shortly whether to declare the Ebola issue as a global health emergency.
In 2012, Saudi Arabia was the epicenter for a massive outbreak of Middle East Respiratory System Coronavirus (MERS). Saudi Arabia’s issues with the spread of MERS persist today.