Robert Roos at CIDRAP writes: With MERS threat, Morocco advises against Hajj. Excerpt:
Morocco's health minister has advised Muslims in his country not to go on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia this year, given the threat of MERS-CoV, according to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) report today.
The minister, Lahoucine Louardi, issued the advice yesterday, the same day the World Health Organization (WHO) said MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) remains a serious concern, particularly in view of the large number of pilgrims expected to go to Saudi Arabia this summer and fall, AFP reported. WHO experts said the disease is not an international health emergency, however.
Last week the Moroccan health ministry advised the sick and the frail to postpone trips to Saudi Arabia, the story said. But yesterday in a speech to parliament, Louardi broadened the warning, saying, "We advise pilgrims not to travel to the Holy Sites." A source at the health ministry confirmed the recommendation.
Louardi said he decided to make the recommendation after consulting with several parties, including the WHO and Arab health ministers, AFP reported. The story said Morocco has a 2014 quota of 25,600 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.
The WHO does not currently call for any travel restrictions related to MERS-CoV. But the agency says that those who have preexisting medical conditions should consult a healthcare provider before going on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, given the risk of severe illness if they contract the virus.
Indonesian pilgrim said to be infected
In other developments, Indonesia's health ministry said that an Indonesian man who is on an Umrah pilgrimage has tested positive for MERS-CoV in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, according to a report today from Indonesia's Antara news agency.
A health ministry spokesman said the man must be treated in an Abu Dhabi hospital and will not be allowed to return to his homeland while ill, the story said. No other details about the case were provided.
No confirmed MERS cases have been reported in Indonesia to date.