MERS has not deterred hajj pilgrims: EgyptAir head

Ahram Online, Tuesday 13 May 2014

Despite a rise in MERS-related infections in Saudi Arabia, bookings are still being made for pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia

File Photo: Pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray at the Grand mosque during the annual hajj pilgrimage (Photo: Reuters)

A recent outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Saudi Arabia has not deterred Egyptians wishing to travel to the kingdom for religious pilgrimages in the upcoming holy month of Ramadan, according to the head of EgyptAir, the country's flagship airline.

EgyptAir's chairman Hisham Nahass told Al-Ahram's Arabic news website that reports of the deadly coronavirus in cities near Mecca and Medina – home to two of Islam's most important sites – have not impacted bookings for Ramadan flights to Saudi Arabia.

Nahass added that Egyptian airlines have not received any orders from the health ministry regarding pilgrims' travel to Saudi Arabia.

Last week, the health ministry announced that it was contemplating a temporary ban on pilgrimages to the Gulf kingdom over fears that travelers would bring the disease back to Egypt. A warning has since been issued against travel to Saudi Arabia in order to minimise the spread of the disease.

Over 100 people have died from MERS in Saudi Arabia since the disease was first reported there in 2012.

Meanwhile, Egypt's civil aviation ministry announced that a video is currently being screened on all flights to Saudi Arabia to inform passengers about the coronavirus.

The ministry is coordinating with the health ministry and airport officials to monitor all passengers arriving in Egypt, especially those arriving from countries where the virus has recently spread, said Hossam Kamal, Egypt's civil aviation minister.

On Monday, the director of a hospital for chest diseases in the Cairo district of Abbasiya reported that Egypt's first documented case of MERS had been treated successfully, according to Al-Ahram.


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