RIYADH – Saudi authorities are optimistic that the Haj season will pass without outbreak of the deadly MERS-coronavirus, Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said here on Saturday.
“We are optimistic we can achieve yet another success as the Haj season nears. The Umrah season during the holy month of Ramadan succeeded despite health challenges such as the coronavirus,” he said at the inauguration of the 2nd International Conference on Mass Gathering Medicine.
Saudi Arabia has “longstanding experience” dealing with health challenges brought by large numbers of people, Al-Rabeeah said.
He said that around 200,000 pilgrims who have arrived in the Kingdom for Haj so far are in good health conditions.
Saudi Arabia is very keen to enhance its expertise in handling healthcare in mass gathering. Therefore, the Kingdom has introduced the Saudi diploma program in mass gathering healthcare at the Global Center for Mass Gathering Medicine which was launched at the Health Ministry in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO),” Al-Rabeeah said.
Dr. Alaa Addin Olwan, regional director of WHO Office for the Eastern Mediterranean, said that in appreciation of the Kingdom’s expertise and dedicated efforts in providing healthcare services for a huge mass of pilgrims over the years, WHO decided to appoint the deputyship of the Saudi Health Ministry as a contributing center in mass gathering medicine accredited by WHO.
Health ministers of Bahrain, Egypt, South Korea, Sudan, Turkey and Yemen and vice health minister of Indonesia emphasized the role of efficient surveillance in detecting cases with communicable diseases, especially MERS-coronavirus.
While recognizing the need for generating and recording accurate data and information on infection cases, the ministers admitted the right of anonymity for patients.
Al-Rabeeah commended the efforts and success of the Kingdom, and the rest of the world in facing healthcare challenges posed by epidemics such as bird flu, MERS-coronavirus and others.
Dr. Ziad Maimish, deputy health minister and chairman of the conference organizing committee, said the conference is a valuable opportunity to exchange expertise, policy formulations and strategy setting.
In addition to speeches and documentaries on the development of healthcare services in the Kingdom, the conference focused on the launch of the Global Center for Mass Gathering Medicine, WHO program for mass gathering, a review of 2012 mass gathering events and global health, mass gathering medicine in Korea, and Haj 2012 and Umrah 2013.