The Saudi government has announced a temporary ban of the 2020 Umrah (the lesser hajj) as a precautionary measure against the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) globally.
Ambassador of the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Ghana, His Excellency Meshal Hamdan Al-Rogi who made the announcement said, the ban is also to protect Saudi citizens, residents, and pilgrims already in the country.
He has also clarified that this year’s Hajj has neither been postponed nor cancelled.
Other precautionary steps
Based on the recommendations of the competent health authorities, the Saudi Kingdom has adopted the following preventive measures to avert a possible outbreak of the Coronavirus.
1. Suspending entry to the Kingdom for the purpose of Umrah and visiting the Prophet’s Mosque temporarily.
2. Suspending entry into the Kingdom with tourist visas for those coming from countries in the spread of the new Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a danger according to the criteria determined by the competent health authorities in the Kingdom and
3. Temporal suspension of entry of citizens of Golf Cooperation Council to the cities of Makkah and Madina except for citizens who have been in the Kingdom for 14 consecutive days and did not show signs of Coronavirus
The Ambassador commended the Pilgrims Affairs Office of Ghana (PAOG) and the National Hajj Board for their media intervention on this matter as it first broke and the tremendous improvement in the organization of Hajj in Ghana in recent times.
He stressed the readiness of the Saudi Embassy to facilitate the acquisition of hajj visas and other related matters with dispatch.
His Excellency Meshal Hamdan Al-Rogi, promised to liaise and communicate with the relevant Ghanaian authorities any changes in Saudi government policy or directives in so far as this matter of the spread of the coronavirus concerned especially as it relates to trips to Saudi Arabia.
Global statistics for affected persons of the virus have surpassed 110,000 with over 4,000 deaths, majority of which occurred in China.
Health Service intensifies measures
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) says measures aimed at tackling the spread of the coronavirus in case of an outbreak have been intensified at the national and regional levels.
According to GHS, various regions have identified holding and treatment rooms and also intensified education on the disease to health officials and communities.
In an interaction with the media after a crunch meeting with Regional Health Directors in Accra, Director General of the Ghana Health Service Dr. Patrick Kuma Aboagye said GHS will continue resourcing the regions adequately against the virus.
“The regions have had regional coordinating meetings with the regional director. They have identified treatment centres and they have done orientation for all of their staff. They’ve also intensified community education and mass radio awareness creation for which we expect them to adhere to. Currently, we’ve also given them additional resource packs to help intensify their work with updated treatment protocols.”
Meanwhile, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has temporarily suspended foreign travels for all government officials, as part of measures to prevent the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ghana.
A circular issued by the Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, and addressed to all sector Ministers, their deputies, and other government officials stressed that only essential and critical foreign travels will be considered and, thereafter, approved.