Several Haj and Umrah pilgrimage establishments have stopped accepting applications for Umrah visas from pilgrims over 60, as well as children, following a Health Ministry advisory to that effect as part of measures to contain the MERS virus.
“We will also stop providing Haj visas to pilgrims who have not been vaccinated against other types of flu,” Saad Al-Quraishi, president of the Haj and Umrah Committee at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), told Arab News.
The spread of the MERS virus in the Western Province, particularly Makkah, Madinah and Jeddah, has prompted many service providers to turn away older pilgrims although the government has not yet issued any official decision on the matter.
The decision comes two months ahead of Ramadan.
Acting Health Minister Adel Fakeih last week advised children and pilgrims over 65, the age groups most prone to contracting the virus, to postpone embarking on any pilgrimage until the threat has subsided.
Umrah and Haj service establishments, who fear the disease may take its toll on the number of would-be pilgrims, have also introduced preventive advice and measures to their clients.