Saudi minister unveils plans to ensure hajj pilgrims’ safety

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Saudi Minister of Health Abdullah al-Rabeea said on Wednesday that his ministry has devised a thorough plan to ensure the safety of pilgrims during this year’s hajj season.

“We expanded the presence of healthcare workers, a total of 22,000, at all facilities in Mecca, Medina and (other) holy sites in order to follow up on all cases that may (medically) pose a threat to pilgrims,” Rabeea told Al-Arabiya.

He also said that the ministry's preparations for this year's hajj season began at the end of last year's season, adding that the aim of early preparations is to detail all previous mistakes and thus avoid them during this year.

“We seek to provide the best healthcare services to pilgrims. We do this through coordinating with the World Health Organization and [other] international health organizations to gather information about all the countries from which pilgrims come,” he said.

“We then study this information, implement all requirements and order different vaccines which we specify according to the country,” the minister added.

Rabeea also said that the number of specialized hospitals in place in the vicinity of Makkah and Madinah during the hajj season is 25: four in Arafat, four in Mina, seven in Mecca - in addition to King Abdullah Medical City - and nine in Madinah.

He added that there are also 141 preliminary healthcare centers at holy sites: 46 in Arafat, six in Muzdalifah, 28 in Mina and the rest are distributed between Mecca and Madinah.
The kingdom’s hajj ministry also provides ambulances for pilgrims who are incapable of finishing their hajj rituals due to illness or old age by transferring them to hospitals at holy sites, like Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah in order to enable them to finish their pilgrimage. These convoys are available in Makkah as well as Madinah.

Rabeea said his ministry has prepared for the Coronavirus by providing vaccines and medications, adding that there are also isolation rooms at hospitals.

The ministry has also advised the elderly, children and those with chronic diseases not to go to hajj in order to maintain their health.

There are also preliminary preparations to test for the SARS-like virus through following up on anyone suspected of carrying the virus, whether at hospitals or hajj missions.

The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV),which can cause coughing, fever and pneumonia, emerged in Saudi Arabia last year and has been reported in people in the Gulf, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia and Britain.

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