Minister of Health Dr. Hamad Al-Mane’ has confirmed that no cases of contagious disease have been reported among an estimated 500,000 pilgrims who have already arrived for the 1424 Hajj, and that every precaution has been taken to face any emergency. Declaring that any pilgrim arriving from overseas found to be suffering from a contagious disease will either be sent back home or quarantined in Jeddah, he urged health officials at entry points to be vigilant in their inspections. He added that on recommendations by the World Health Organization (WHO), no pilgrims from the Republic of Congo are being allowed this year, in view of the outbreak of Ebola in that country. There is, however, no ban on pilgrims from China, in spite of suspected SARS cases there; Dr. Al-Mane’ gave assurances that Saudi Arabia has advanced equipment for the detection of SARS.
The Ministry of Health has 20 hospitals (7 in Makkah, 6 in Madinah, 4 in Mina, 3 in Arafat); 188 health centers (85 in Makkah, 22 in Madinah, 29 in Mina, 46 in Arafat, 6 in Muzdalifa) and 155 ambulances (75 of them equipped as mobile intensive care units and operating around the clock), ready to serve the health needs of pilgrims, together with around 9,500 doctors, nurses, paramedics and administrative officers, including 600 medical students from eight colleges and twelve health institutes. The ministry has also recruited 115 medical specialists and nurses from the United States, Britain and Malaysia to work in emergency and intensive care units. In addition, a number of foreign Hajj missions have brought in doctors and paramedics to take care of their own pilgrims. The ministry’s preventive measures include inspecting pilgrims on arrival at the 24 entry points and providing them with vaccinations against infectious diseases such as meningitis and yellow fever.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) expects to transport a record number of 921,706 pilgrims for Hajj this year, with 381,650 passengers from Asia, 241,480 from the Middle East, 128,200 from Africa and a total of 170,376 from the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey. Among them are 70 young people from several different countries who are being hosted by the Ministry of Pilgrimage in a camp in which a number of outstanding students from Saudi Universities, who have a good command of English, will participate. According to official figures, last year 1,924,000 pilgrims performed Hajj.