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Hajj age restriction on virus fears Egypt reports 1st sufferer

KUWAIT CITY, May 1, (Agencies): The Saudi Ministry of Health in a letter to its Kuwaiti counterpart has requested not to allow persons 60 years and above to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform hajj or umrah, particularly following the outbreak of the coronavirus in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, reports Al-Jarida daily quoting sources.

The sources said the Saudi Minister of Health Adel Faqeh has sent a letter to his Kuwaiti counterpart on this issue. He has also simultaneously informed all embassies and consulates in the Kingdom to limit the number of pilgrims on health grounds particularly the elderly to prevent them from being affected by the virus.

He added, there have been strong indications that a camel is the carrier of the virus and a committee of experts has advised all those handling camels to take extra precautions by wearing protective masks. No cases of coronavirus have been detected in Kuwait either at the Chest Diseases Hospital or any other place until now, reports Al-Anba daily quoting reliable sources. However, it has been reported the Ministry of Health has taken necessary preventive measures in this regard. Sources added, the suspected patients at the hospital is dealing with such cases only if the tests come out positive since the hospital is specialized in treating such diseases. However, given the circumstances, it is but natural to suspect anyone of carrying the virus.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said on Thursday the total number of cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), an often deadly new disease, had nearly doubled in the kingdom in April with 26 more infections reported on Tuesday and Wednesday. The first case of the disease in Egypt was also reported on Thursday, in a 27- year-old man who lives in Saudi Arabia but returned ill to Egypt last week after having been in contact with an uncle in the kingdom who died of MERS. International concern about the disease is acute because Saudi Arabia is expected to receive large numbers of foreign pilgrims during the fasting month of Ramadan in July, followed by millions more for Islam’s annual haj pilgrimage in October.

Although the WHO has said the disease, from the same family as the SARS virus, is difficult to pass between humans, most of the cases reported in Saudi Arabia so far appear to have been transmitted between people rather than from animals. A team of WHO experts has arrived in Saudi Arabia and is working with authorities on boosting infection control measures, particularly in hospitals, and studying how the virus spreads. Seven of the new cases were in Jeddah, four in Makkah, 10 in Riyadh, two in the northern town of Tabuk and one each in Hafr al-Batin near Kuwait and Najran near Yemen.

Two people, who had previously been confirmed as suffering from the disease, died. The new cases have taken the total number of confirmed infections in Saudi Arabia to 371, a jump of 89 percent during the month of April. Most of the new infections last month came in an outbreak in three hospitals in Jeddah. Of people who caught the disease in Saudi Arabia, 107 have died since it was identified two years ago.

But health experts believe the initial source of transmission was from an animal reservoir, probably camels. On Tuesday, acting health minister Adel Fakeih said Saudis should avoid close contact with camels or consuming their raw milk or meat. Elsewhere, two new infections from MERS coronavirus have been detected in Jordan, the health ministry said Thursday, one a Saudi man and the other a Jordanian medic who was treating him.


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