Via Arab News: Umrah cancellation rumors scotched.
The Haj Ministry has not received cancellations for Umrah reservations in the wake of the coronavirus, said Abdullah Marghalani, undersecretary at the Haj Ministry and general director of the ministry’s Jeddah branch.
“We take directives solely from the Saudi Health Ministry, the only official body responsible for issuing health advice for the pilgrimage,” he said. “We do not take into account rumors circulating on social networking sites.”
The Health Ministry has reassured residents that the virus has not reached an epidemic stage, he said. This is why the Haj Ministry has not taken precautionary measures so far.
“Wearing a face mask is optional and cannot be forced upon pilgrims,” he said. “We have not had any complaints from foreign governments about any of their pilgrims being infected with the virus. The virus itself has not affected Umrah pilgrims so far, nor has it had any effect on applications for the Haj and Umrah pilgrimages.”
According to official statistics, there have been 3.8 million Umrah pilgrims since the beginning of the season, a 30 percent increase from the 2.5 million pilgrims performing Umrah this time last year,” said Marghalani. Umrah service providers have also indicated a 30 percent increase in the number of applications this year.
I don't know why the Haj Ministry is sticking to its story about no pilgrims with MERS, when a Malaysian pilgrim died of MERS on April 13 after returning from Umrah on March 29.