Pilgrims pour into Saudi undeterred by MERS fears
By Abdel Hadi AL-HABTOOR
June 6, 2014
Mecca (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – Muslim pilgrims from around the world are pouring into the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, undeterred by the spread of the MERS virus which has killed 284 people in the kingdom.
The mysterious Middle East Respiratory Syndrome is considered a deadlier but less transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that appeared in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.
MERS first appeared in Saudi Arabia in April 2012, and the kingdom remains the worst-hit country, accounting for the bulk of a global death toll.
But the faithful who dream of visiting the holy shrines in Mecca and Medina at least once in their lives continue to pour into Mecca to perform the lesser umrah pilgrimage.
“We have received warnings by authorities in our country about MERS and were informed of the importance of taking precautions,” said 45-year-old Abdullah, a pilgrim from Malaysia.
Wearing a mask, Abdullah said he applies disinfectants as he enters the Grand Mosque in Mecca. “God will protect me,” he said.