RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s health officials have issued warnings asking Hajj pilgrims to wear masks in crowded places to stop the spread of a deadly virus.
The Health Ministry issued a list of requirements for the pilgrims planning to visit the country’s holy sites in an effort to stop the spread of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), reports said on Saturday.
The elderly people or those with chronic diseases were also asked to postpone their pilgrimage.
Some 38 people have so far died from the respiratory infection in Saudi Arabia.
The officials also asked people to maintain public and personal hygiene standards, use a tissue when sneezing and coughing, and have the necessary vaccinations.
Muslim pilgrims visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina throughout the year, but the prime season falls in October this year, when millions of Muslims from around the world are expected to flood the kingdom for the annual Hajj rituals.
The virus first emerged in the Middle East, and was discovered in September 2012 in a Qatari man who had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia.
Cases have been reported in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, France, Italy, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.
MERS-CoV is a cousin of SARS. Health officials are trying to find out how humans are contracting the virus in a bid to find the best remedy to it.
It does not appear to be as contagious as SARS, which killed some 800 people in a 2003 epidemic.