SINGAPORE: Stick to guidelines put forward by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) about the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), said Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim.
Dr Yaacob was advising those headed to Saudi Arabia for the mini pilgrimage or umrah.
The guidelines include vaccination against common infections like the flu, and minimising interaction with live animals like camels.
“Ultimately, if you don’t feel well, and you feel this is not the right time for you to go, you may want to consider whether or not it’s the right time for you to go.
“We must not forget that this is not just about our health and our family, but the entire community. Because if you come back and you bring back the virus, you can affect other people here in Singapore. So there is a certain degree of responsibility,” said Dr Yaacob, who is also Communications and Information Minister.
He added that his other concern will be for the fasting period of Ramadan, when many pilgrims may want to spend the whole month in Saudi Arabia.
A few hundred Singaporeans will leave for Mecca on Sunday, after having secured visas from the Saudi authorities.
The vice president of the Muslim Travel Agents Association is currently in Saudi Arabia to appeal for 2,500 visas for Singapore pilgrims who have booked tour packages for next month.
Earlier this month, the visa application process for Singapore was momentarily slowed due to concerns about the large number of pilgrims in Mecca, while redevelopment work was in full swing.
Mr Agil Alkaff, one of the members of the Muslim Travel Agents Association and director of Hagel Travel, is now relieved, as most pilgrims under his care have received their visas to visit Mecca in the past few days.
Last week, he told them to be prepared to cancel their trip, if their visa application was rejected.
He is still waiting for 60 more applications to be approved.
Another travel agency, Shahidah Travel, is also relieved that 120 of its pilgrims are due to depart on Saturday after getting their visas.
However, another 300 of the agency’s clients are still without visas.
As a precautionary measure against the MERS virus, all Singapore pilgrims departing for Saudi Arabia have also taken up additional medical insurance, which includes coverage for all emergencies while in Saudi, as well as after their return to Singapore.