Hajj pilgrimage to require medical clearance

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

MANILA - Medical clearance are set to be required from Filipino Muslims that are planning to go on pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia this year amid the prevailing threat of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

National Commission on Muslim Filipinos – Bureau of External Relations Director Dr. Dimapuno Datu-Ramos said they will be requiring applicants for Hajj pilgrimage to present medical clearances to ascertain their healthiness in making the trip.

"The medical certificate is needed as proof that they underwent thorough physical exam and have been properly assessed on whether making the pilgrimage is advisable or not," said Datu-Ramos in a press conference at the Department of Health (DOH) in Manila.

Aside from the medical certificate, those who are intending to go to Mecca shall be required to get flu, polio, and meningococcemia vaccines.

"These are all offered for free by the DOH and all they have to do is go to their regional offices to get vaccinated," said Datu-Ramos. Sans the DOH assistance, he said pilgrims may have to shell out almost P3,000 to get the required vaccines.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona added that the DOH will be deploying medical doctors and other health workers in each of the pilgrimage flights headed to and from Mecca in order to have the capability to monitor the health conditions of the Filipino pilgrims.

Datu-Ramos said the expected pilgrimage for this year is about 6,500 Filipino Muslims set to go to Mecca for the annual Hajj, which is expected to fall between October 2 to 7.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), MERS-CoV cases in Saudi are already at 699 laboratory-confirmed cases, including 209 deaths.

But for Ona, the best way to avoid the MERS-CoV is by deferring their Hajj pilgrimages at least until next year.

"We are strongly recommending and advising our Muslim brothers to defer, postpone, or delay their Hajj pilgrimage this year for, maybe, next year," said Ona.

He said they are especially worried for those that can be considered as members of "high-risk groups".

"Persons who are 60 years old and above, pregnant women, children below five years old, those who have diabetes, kidney disease, chronic lung disease, weak immunity, they are all at high risk of contracting MERSCoV," said Ona.

He, however, explained that their call is merely an "advisory" and that not everyone is mandated to heed it.

"It is an advisory we are giving. It is not something that is mandatory, which the government can actually do always. But we are not prohibiting travel/pilgrimage,” said Ona. (HDT/Sunnex)

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