Saudi Arabia suspends visas to pilgrims from Congo fearing spread of Ebola

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Saudi Arabia suspends visas to pilgrims from Congo fearing spread of Ebola

Muslims from Democratic Republic of the Congo have been banned this year to go for Hajj in Saudi Arabia due to Ebola outbreak in the eastern North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the country.

About three per cent of Congo's population is Muslim who had planned to take part in the annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia next month.

"The granting of arrivals visas for people entering from DRC has been stopped, to conserve the well-being of pilgrims", the Saudi ministry's note said.

Saudi Arabia's move to suspend the issuance of visas to Congolese citizens comes following an announcement by the World Health Organization declaring the Ebola outbreak a public health emergency of global concern. It is also the second-biggest Ebola epidemic ever recorded, behind the West Africa outbreak of 2014-2016.

Last week, members of the emergency Committee declared an epidemic in DR Congo "emergency environment, public health, worldwide importance".

The W.H.O defines Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) as, "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response".

The West African Ebola epidemic, which is regarded as the largest in history, started with cases of Ebola virus in the forested rural region of southeastern Guinea, as reported by the World Health Organization in March 2014.

So far, there have been more than 2,500 cases of infection.

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