PH Muslims advised to postpone Hajj to Saudi due to MERS-CoV risk PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 05 July 2014 11:46

The Department of Health (DOH) appealed on Thursday to Filipino Muslims who intend to perform the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages in the Arabian Peninsula this year to postpone or delay their trips due to the ongoing concerns over the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

“I would like to reiterate our advisory to all our Filipino Muslims that due to the ongoing MERS-CoV issues, especially in Saudi Arabia, where most of our pilgrims will be going by September and October, our strong recommendation, if possible, is to either postpone it or defer their trip this year, or do it next year,” Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona said in a press conference.

“Those persons who are 60 years old and above, pregnant women, children below five years old, those who have diabetes, kidney diseases, chronic lung diseases, weak immunity — they are all at high-risk of contracting MERS-Cov,” Dr. Ona added.

These high-risk groups are advised to delay their trips to the Arabian Peninsula, especially with the reports by the World Health Organization (WHO) about 699 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with MERS-CoV, including 209 deaths.

According to WHO, the affected countries in the Arabian Peninsula include Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

In the same press conference, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Director IV Dimapuno Datu-Ramos Jr. said that “unless given a medical certificate from physicians, they (Filipino Muslims) will not be allowed to join the pilgrimage.”

He added that the pilgrims also need to be vaccinated with pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), meningococcemia as well as polio vaccines, noting the risk of getting polio virus.

Dr. Ramos said an estimated 6,500 Filipino Muslims are expected to perform the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages this year.

Muslim pilgrims gather in Mecca to perform rituals based on those conducted by the Prophet Muhammad during his last visit to the city.

Performing these rituals, known as the Hajj, is the fifth pillar of Islam and the most significant manifestation of Islamic faith and unity.

Undertaking the Hajj at least once in his lifetime is a duty of Muslims who are physically and financially able to make the journey to Mecca.

Hajj is expected to fall between Oct. 2 and 7, 2014. The exact dates of Islamic holidays cannot be determined in advance due to the nature of the Islamic lunar calendar. Estimates are based on expected visibility of the “hilal” (waxing crescent moon following a new moon) and may vary according to location.

Umrah is also known as the “lesser pilgrimage,” in comparison to the annual Hajj pilgrimage of Islam. It is a visit one makes to the Grand Mosque in Mecca, outside of the designated Hajj pilgrimage dates.

The word “umrah” means to visit an important place.