- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi authorities on Ebola watch as millions gather for haj
- Date: 2nd October 2014
- Summary: MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA (OCTOBER 2,2014) (REUTERS) NEWS CONFERENCE SAUDI OFFICIALS SEATED PHOTOGRAPHER ADJUSTING CAMERA VARIOUS OF REPORTER WRITING NOTE SAUDI MINISTRY OF HEALTH SPOKESPERSON, KHALID MARGHALANI, SEEN ON SCREEN OF VIDEO CAMERA (SOUNDBITE) (English) SAUDI MINISTRY OF HEALTH SPOKESPERSON, KHALID MIRGHALANI, SAYING: "We already stop- taking out- giving out visa to three countries, the countries have Ebola register, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone." REPORTERS INTERVIEWING MIRGHALANI (SOUNDBITE) (English) SAUDI MINISTRY OF HEALTH SPOKESPERSON, KHALID MIRGHALANI, SAYING: "We had no suspected cases either in Ebola or Corona (virus) between Hajjis (pilgrims)." LOGO OF PUBLIC SECURITY NEWS CONFERENCE SPOKESPERSON OF INTERIOR MINISTRY, MANSOUR AL-TURKI MARGHALANI AND AL-TURKI SEATED (SOUNDBITE) (English) MANSOUR AL-TURKI, SPOKESPERSON OF SAUDI INTERIOR MINISTRY, SAYING: "The kingdom has been prepared actually to defend its land and its people from terrorism long time ago." AL-TURKI SPEAKING, SEEN ON SCREEN OF VIDEO CAMERA (SOUNDBITE) (English) MANSOUR AL-TURKI, SPOKESPERSON OF SAUDI INTERIOR MINISTRY, SAYING: "We have actually enforced our security readiness at all the borders of Saudi Arabia, the northern border, the southern border." CAMERAMAN LOGO OF SAUDI INTERIOR MINISTRY NEWS CONFERENCE ENDING
- Embargoed: 17th October 2014 13:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: Health
- Reuters ID: LVA4EFQF69EO89NB2IV5P5PXPKWS
- Story Text: Anxious to safeguard Islam's haj pilgrimage from the threat of Ebola, Saudi authorities are screening pilgrims arriving from West Africa and have deployed mobile laboratories to test any suspected cases quickly.
The kingdom expects nearly 3 million pilgrims in Mecca this year, including 1.4 million from abroad. The health ministry said on Thursday (October 2) it has been working with the World Health Organisation and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contain the threat of Ebola, which has killed 3,300 people in West Africa this year.
Saudi Arabia earlier this year barred pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the three countries worst hit by Ebola, from applying for haj visas. More than 7,000 Muslims in those countries had applied, said the United Nations.
"We already stop- taking out- giving out visa to three countries, the countries have Ebola register, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone," said Saudi Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mirghalani.
"We had no suspected cases either in Ebola or Corona (virus) between Hajjis (pilgrims)," he said.
Inside the grand Mosque in Mecca, huge numbers of people were performing the first of the haj rites, walking around the Kaaba, the black-clad cube towards which the world's 1.6 billion Muslims face to pray, and which they see as the geographic centre of their faith.
Few of the pilgrims, who dress in simple white towelling robes, were wearing face masks or surgical gloves to protect them against the transmission of Ebola or other diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).
Those who have taken such precautions are following the advice of the Saudi Health Ministry, which initially struggled to prevent an outbreak of MERS in April and May that infected hundreds due to poor hygiene procedures in some hospitals.
Saudi Arabia, where the disease emerged in 2012, has had 755 cases, of whom 320 have died. Four new cases have been confirmed in the past week, including two in Medina and Taif where haj pilgrims often travel, the authorities have announced.
The kingdom has this year reduced the numbers permitted to perform haj for safety reasons because of construction work to enlarge the Grand Mosque. Its security services have ringed Islam's sacred city with checkpoints and other measures to prevent people arriving for the pilgrimage without authorisation.
Those procedures, aimed at reducing crowd pressure which can lead to stampedes, fires and other hazards, have been intensified in recent years because of the growing security threat from the many political crises in the Middle East.
Larger numbers of special forces officers were patrolling the Grand Mosque than in previous years.
Last week, Saudi Arabia took part in U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State and other militants in Syria, and that group and al Qaeda have both called for attacks inside the kingdom.
Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Mansour Turki the kingdom had "enforced security readiness at all the borders".
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
- Copyright Notice: (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014. Open For Restrictions - http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp
- Usage Terms/Restrictions: None