Deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party Essam El-Erian on Tuesday called on Egyptian officials to take pre-emptive measures ahead of the Umrah pilgrimage season after Saudi Arabian authorities confirmed that 15 people in the kingdom had succumbed to the deadly coronavirus.
Millions of pilgrims are expected to converge on the Saudi city of Mecca for this year's Umrah pilgrimage, which will be followed later this year by the larger Hajj pilgrimage.
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, by contrast, is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, according to Sunni-Muslim tenets.
El-Erian warned that the coronavirus epidemic extended across the oil-rich kingdom and was not limited to specific areas.
"Action must therefore be taken after three people died in France, which means the fatal virus has a higher chance of being passed among people," he said.
On Tuesday, four more cases of coronavirus were detected in Saudi Arabia, the health ministry said, raising the number of people infected with the SARS-like virus to 28 countrywide, including 15 fatalities, according to news agency AFP.
The four new cases were registered in Saudi's Eastern Province, which has been gripped by panic after it was shown to be home to most of the country's cases of infection.
Saudi health authorities are now taking recommendations from disease specialists at US and Canadian universities, the Saudi health ministry stated.