Morocco advises against hajj due to MERS threat

Morocco's health minister has advised the country's Muslim faithful against making pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia this year, with the deadly MERS virus having killed nearly 300 people there so far.

Last week, the health ministry urged the sick and the frail to postpone any planned pilgrimages until 2015, and circulated among those determined to go information on the from the virus.

Speaking in parliament Tuesday, Lahoucine Louardi appeared to revise his ministry's advice, extending it to all Moroccans planning the hajj this year.

"We advise pilgrims not to travel to the Holy Sites," he said, quoted by the official MAP news agency, saying the decision was taken "after consultations with several parties, in particular the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Arab health ministers."

Mers "is a dangerous disease that kills one in three people infected," he said, adding that there was no antidote for it.

Contacted by AFP, a source at the confirmed the recommendation, while insisting that it did not amount to a ban.

According to official statistics, Morocco has an annual quota for 2014 of 25,600 pilgrims, which is strictly controlled.

Millions of people visit the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia for the hajj, a pilgrimage all Muslims are expected to make at least once if their health and finances permit.

This year it takes place in October.

The lesser umrah pilgrimage may be performed throughout the year.

The desert kingdom has been the country worst affected by MERS, with 284 people killed there since it first emerged in April 2012, and hundreds more infected.

The WHO said Tuesday that, while a surge in MERS cases had receded, the situation remained of concern, "especially given the anticipated increase in travel to Saudi Arabia related to umrah, Ramadan and the hajj."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

First MERS death in Algeria

Jun 11, 2014

An Algerian man in his fifties has died of the MERS virus, the first such fatality in the country, the health ministry announced Tuesday.

First MERS infections detected in Algeria

May 31, 2014

Algeria reported its first two cases of the deadly MERS virus on Saturday, both among pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia, where most cases and deaths from the disease have been reported.

Recommended for you

Global Ebola toll rises to 5,689: WHO

2 hours ago

The World Health Organization said Thursday that the global death toll from the Ebola virus had increased to 5,689 out of a total of 15,935 cases of infection, mainly in western Africa.

Ebola vaccine promising in first human trials

13 hours ago

Researchers say they're a step closer to developing an Ebola vaccine, with a Phase 1 trial showing promising results, but it will be months at the earliest before it can be used in the field.

At one month, US Ebola monitors finding no cases

16 hours ago

The U.S. program that requires weeks of monitoring for travelers from African countries with Ebola reaches the one-month mark Thursday. And so far, no cases of the disease have turned up.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.