Bahrain restricts Haj trips overs Mers threat
Manama, May 5, 2014
Children and elderly Bahrainis will not be allowed to accompany pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, as part of measures to control the spread of a killer virus, a report said.
People planning to go on Haj or Umrah pilgrimages have been warned they would face visa restrictions if they are not fully vaccinated against the flu and other diseases, according to the report in the Gulf daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
Bahrain Haj Mission head and High Court of Appeal chairman Shaikh Adnan Abdullah Al Qattan told the GDN that Saudi Arabia has urged people over 60 and children to stay away from this year's Haj season, which is expected to start in late September.
It follows directives from Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry to reduce infection levels of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers-CoV).
"It is not an official ban on people over the age of 60 but more of an advisory," said Shaikh Al Qattan. "It makes sense because people over the age of 60 and children have reduced immunity too. If people provide certificates saying that they are well and healthy then they are likely not to be rejected from having a place and a visa."
Saudi newspaper Arab News has reported that several Haj and Umrah pilgrimage establishments in Saudi Arabia have already stopped accepting applications from pilgrims over 60, as well as children, following a Health Ministry advisory that was circulated.
"We will also stop providing Haj visas to pilgrims who have not been vaccinated against other types of flu," Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Haj and Umrah Committee president Saad Al Quraishi was quoted in the daily.
Saudi's Haj Ministry shrunk the pilgrim quotas of all countries last year due to ongoing expansion projects in the Holy Mosque.
"This year there are only 3,700 allocated places for Bahrainis and usually we need between 5,000 and 6,000 places, so it may ease the burden this year," said Shaikh Al Qattan.
"I encourage those who have gone before not to apply again this time to allow those who haven't gone the opportunity, since the numbers are limited."
Bahrain remains on high alert to prevent the spread of Mers-CoV that has claimed more than 100 lives in Saudi Arabia.
The GDN reported last week that Health Ministry officials said despite treating 400 suspect cases of the Mers-CoV infections since 2012, no one has tested positive.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) expects the virus to spread to other countries and says it is extremely difficult to contain. – TradeArabia News Service