The current Ebola outbreak has forced Saudi Arabia to suspend the granting of visas to pilgrims from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
That means pilgrims from the central African country cannot undertake the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, DR Congo’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
The ministry said the decision was however reached on the back of the World Health Organization’s decision to declare the Ebola outbreak in DR Congo a public health emergency of international concern.
The statement said “The granting of arrivals visas for people entering from DR Congo has been stopped, to conserve the well being of pilgrims.”
This is the second worst Ebola outbreak of all time, in DR Congo.
The decision to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern came months after the WHO refused to do so despite appeals from health experts.
Public Health Emergency
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”.
This definition refers to a situation that is:
- Serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected.
- Carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border.
- May require immediate international action
The W.H.O in a statement “cited recent developments in the outbreak in making its recommendation, including the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda, and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.”
So far, there have been more than 2,500 cases of infection.
Nearly 1,670 have died in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, where multiple armed groups and lack of local trust have hampered efforts to get the outbreak under control.