Health Minister Adel Fakeih said on Monday declared this year’s Haj epidemic-free as he announced that 70 people who were considered as possibly having MERS have all tested negative of the coronavirus.
“I am pleased to announce the Haj was free of all epidemic diseases,” Fakeih told reporters in Mina as pilgrims performed the last rituals of the Haj and began leaving the holy sites.
About two million Muslims from 163 countries have performed Haj this year. The Haj drew a cross-section of humanity, from presidents to commoners, including a wounded Syrian rebel war veteran.
The health ministry employed thousands of health workers to make sure pilgrims were protected from two deadly viruses, Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus.
Fakeih set up of a “command and control” center to direct the Haj health operation, and required every pilgrim to complete a health screening questionnaire.
Passengers were monitored by thermal cameras that detect high body temperature, and 15 isolation rooms were set up to hold any suspicious cases at the airport in the city of Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia is the country hardest hit by MERS, which has killed 322 people in the kingdom since it first appeared in September 2012.
The health ministry on Sunday reported two more MERS deaths, one in Riyadh and another in the mountain city of Taif, 80 kilometers east of Makkah.
Because of the Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 3,000 people in West Africa, pilgrims from the hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were not allowed to perform Haj this year.
The Saudi Red Crescent Authority also declared the emergency response plan for the Haj season a success. Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, president of Saudi Red Crescent Authority, said emergency air and ground teams responded to about 15,000 cases in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
The Red Crescent employed some 3,600 emergency personnel, including doctors, technicians and support services, with some 536 ambulance teams scattered in the holy sites. Arab News