By Courtney Trenwith
Saudi official says West African nations accepted the decision “with grace”
More than 7000 people have been affected by Saudi Arabia’s decision to cancel visas for pilgrims participating in Umrah and Haj, a government official has said.
The leaders of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia had accepted the kingdom’s decision “with grace”, the Saudi charge d'affaires to Guinea, where majority of the pilgrims originated, reportedly said.
The 7200 visas were cancelled due to fears of the Ebola virus spreading, not only in the kingdom but among the millions of Muslims expected to participate in the pilgrimage.
More than 800 people have died from the disease in the three West African nations in recent months, in what has been the worst outbreak of Ebola since it was detected.
"This was a precautionary measure the Saudi Embassy in Conakry has taken to prevent the possible spread of the deadly virus among other pilgrims," Saudi charge d'affaires in Guinea Mohammed Al Hamoud said.
Hamoud said the decision would remain in place despite the measures taken by the Guinean government in the past two weeks to ensure its pilgrims were free of the infection.
“The present condition regarding the spread of the virus necessitates the cessation of Haj visa issuance for the citizens of the three African countries,” he said.
Dr. Khaled Obaid Baqwakid, a Saudi official, said pilgrims coming from countries neighbouring the three West African states would be closely monitored to prevent any probable spread of the virus.
He said the measures taken by the kingdom so far were sufficient to prevent any cases of Ebola entering the country.
It was confirmed yesterday that a man in Jeddah was being treated for Ebola.