The South African Haj and Umrah Council (Sahuc) says local hujaaj do not need to worry about the Ebola virus during the haj season. In the midst of an alarming outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, the Saudi Ministry has opted to suspend the issuance of haj and umrah visas for Sierre Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, due to concerns the virus may be spread during the annual haj pilgrimage.
According to recent reports by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1600 people have been infected in the West Africa region with nearly 900 having been killed since the outbreak began in February.Ebola is a severe haemorrhagic fever, often fatal in humans.
Despite concerns raised by the rapid spread of the virus, Sahuc president Shaheen Essop, quelled concerns that the ministry’s decision would affect local hujaaj as well. He believed there would be no significant impact on South Africans undertaking the journey this year.
He also sought to calm the anxiety amongst local hujaaj towards contracting Ebola, insisting the issue was at present limited to West Africa, and with Muslims from that region now barred from partaking in haj this year, the chances of picking up the virus were highly unlikely.
“South Africa is at the southern most tip of Africa and at this particular point in time Ebola seems to be concentrated in the Sierre Leone, or West African area,” he said.
However, he still stressed the importance of taking the appropriate yellow fever and meningitis vaccinations, noting that without the accompanying yellow card, hujaaj would likely face problems when departing for the Kingdom.
“It is imperative that the yellow card is kept with you at all times through you travels. Upon leaving South Africa without that yellow card, you may find problems at immigration or at the airports,” he said.
With the local Saudi embassy having set a deadline for all passports to be passed on by the end of the week, Essop expressed satisfaction that the haj process was well on track.
He also noted that Sahuc’s haj mission would depart for the Kingdom on the 18 August to set up the respective clinics in Makkah and Madina, in preparation for the hujaaj’s expected arrival in September.
For any haj related queries, you may contact Sahuc’s offices on 021 696 4433. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)