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Saudi Health Ministry Says No MERS Cases Detected So Far Among Hajj Pilgrims

“Saudi Arabia has so far recorded no cases of the deadly MERS coronavirus among pilgrims in the holy city of Mecca for the annual hajj season, the Ministry of Health said on Saturday,” Reuters reports. “The death toll from the respiratory virus in the kingdom, where the strain emerged last year, has reached 51, and some health officials had feared there could be a large outbreak in a huge congregation of pilgrims from the Muslim world,” the news agency notes (Bakr, 10/12). “But the authorities have said they are optimistic the hajj will pass without incident, given Muslims also go on lesser pilgrimages at other times of the year and there has been no problem,” Agence France-Presse writes. “The [health] minister said up to 600 public health employees wearing face masks were deployed at Jeddah international airport to screen arriving pilgrims,” and “Riyadh has also urged the elderly and chronically ill, who are particularly susceptible to MERS, to avoid the hajj and have advised pilgrims to wear face masks,” according to the news service (Hasan, 10/11).