Pilgrims attend Friday prayers around the Kaaba inside the Grand Mosque, during the annual Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt's health ministry has issued a warning against travel to Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimages in order to minimise the spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS), Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.
The ministry also called on Egyptian citizens to postpone all travel this year in an attempt to minimise the transmission of the virus.
The warning targeted those under 15-years-old, the elderly, pregnant women and others with chronic diseases – all of whom are most susceptible to the virus.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Adel El-Adawi said that there were six suspected (MERS) cases in Egypt, with only one confirmed case currently being hospitalised.
The ministry's statement on Wednesday said that the travel warning comes after careful monitoring of MERS reports from Saudi Arabia and the region.
Those wishing to travel to Saudi Arabia for Islamic pilgrimage were given guidelines by the ministry, including reporting to a doctor immediately in case of fever or cough and staying clean with sanitisers and water.
In May of last year, Egyptians wishing to travel for Umrah or Hajj pilgrimages were also warned by the government due to fears of the deadly virus.
MERS appeared in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and is considered to be deadly. Although less contagious, MERS is a cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003, killing 9 percent of the 8,273 people it infected.
Frequently referred to as the minor or lesser pilgrimage, the Umrah is a non-mandatory pilgrimage to Mecca that can be performed by Muslims at any time of the year. The Hajj, or major pilgrimage, is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, according to Sunni-Muslim tenets.