Saudi Arabia bans Ebola countries from Makkah pilgrimage

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(AFP/Getty Images)

(AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health has banned Muslim pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia from performing Umrah and Haj this season because of concerns about the spread of the Ebola virus.

More than 800 people in the West African countries already have died from the disease, in the worst outbreak since it was identified 40 years ago.

Many countries have implemented stringent screening processes for people travelling from these countries.

Saudi health ministry spokesman Dr Khalid Marghalani said additional measures had been put in place at all ports and airports in the kingdom, where millions of Muslims are travelling to reach the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

“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,” Marghalani said.

There are no direct flights between the kingdom and the three Ebola-affected African countries, except during the Haj season.

International airlines, including Dubai-based Emirates, have suspended flights to the countries.

This Umrah-Haj season also has been impacted by fears over the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed more than 300 people, including 298 in Saudi Arabia, mostly during a spike in cases in April and May.

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