A Nigerian doctor on Hajj pilgrimage has told Reuters reports how Saudi Authorities have been testing pilgrims from West Africa for Ebola.
“We came from Lagos and went through screening there and again have been tested here in Saudi, so for sure we don’t have anything,” said Abdelsamad Shoudany, the Nigerian doctor.
Saudi Arabia earlier this year barred pilgrims from Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the three countries worst hit by Ebola, from applying for hajj visas. More than 7,000 Muslims in those countries had applied, said the United Nations.
The kingdom expects nearly 3 million pilgrims in Mecca this year, including 1.4 million from abroad. The health ministry said on Thursday it has been working with the World Health Organization 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.
“All pilgrims arriving through the 15 entry points had to fill in an application to tell us where they have been over the past 21 days, since that’s the incubation period for Ebola,” said Saudi Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mirghalani.
“We had no suspected cases of Ebola or MERS among the pilgrims so far,” he added.
In case of an outbreak of any infectious disease, the authorities have almost doubled the number of health personnel at the haj medical centers to 22,000 from around 12,000 last year, Tariq Ahmed Madani, a special MERS consultant to the Health Ministry, told Reuters.
“Ebola this year presents an added challenge for us, but we have the full support of the government and face no financial restrictions,” said Madani.
He added that the kingdom had recently established a Command and Control Center (CCC) to deal with any outbreak or natural disaster that might occur.
“The center’s opening was timely with hajj, but is something that will continue to operate outside the hajj period for any incidents Saudi faces.”
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 authorization.