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Filipinos urged to delay hajj over MERS

Updated: 2014-07-04 08:41
By Agencies in Manila and Mogadishu ( China Daily)

Philippine health authorities urged Muslim Filipinos on Thursday to postpone their annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia due to worries about an often deadly respiratory virus.

The World Health Organization has recorded 824 confirmed cases of MERS, or the Middle East respiratory syndrome, as of Wednesday, including at least 286 related deaths. Most cases have occurred in Saudi Arabia, and the virus is believed primarily acquired through contact with camels.

So far, Mecca has seen fewer cases than other parts of Saudi Arabia.Since the corona virus was first discovered in 2012, there have been two annual hajj pilgrimages to the city, and neither saw instances of pilgrims being infected.

"We are strongly recommending and advising our Muslim brothers to defer... their hajj pilgrimage this year for, maybe, next year," Health Secretary Enrique Ona told reporters at a news conference.

About 6,500 Filipinos are expected to join the October pilgrimage, part of some 2 million Muslims from all over the world.

Dimapuno Datu-Ramos from the government's Commission on Muslim Filipinos said those who insist on going needed to secure a medical certificate to show they are fit for the journey.

Ona said that health workers will monitor Filipinos in each of the pilgrimage flights headed to and from Mecca.

Somalia effected

Somalia said on Thursday its economy would suffer if Saudi Arabia banned camel imports from the Horn of Africa nation over suspicions the animals could carry the virus.

The Somali prime minister's office also said in a statement that there had been no reported case of MERS in Somalia since 2012.

Senior Saudi scientist, Tariq Madani, said last week that Saudi Arabia suspected the virus may have arrived in camels from the Horn of Africa and could ban imports until it knows more.Somalia is a big livestock exporter to the kingdom.

"Evidently any change to Somalia's ability to export its camels would have an economic impact,"the Somali statement said.

AP - Reuters

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