The Straits Times
Published on Sep 25, 2012

Saudi downplays impact of mystery virus on Hajj


RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi health authorities downplayed on Tuesday the impact of a possible outbreak of a virus from the family of deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) on its forthcoming Hajj pilgrimage, stressing that the cases remain rare.

Pilgrims have begun to arrive in Saudi Arabia for the ritual that represents the world's largest annual gathering as some two million faithful are expected to descend on the Muslim holy city of Mecca for the hajj which peaks in late October.

"There have been two cases of flu over a period of time. This is normal," said Health Ministry spokesman Khaled al-Mirghalani.

"There are no changes to the conditions put by the health ministry to pilgrims," he said, adding that authorities remain vigilant.