Lagos State Government has barred pregnant women, aged people, children, people with terminal diseases like cancer, stroke and others from taking part in this year’s hajj as they are more susceptible to the deadly Coronavirus ravaging Saudi Arabia and parts of the Middle East and Asia.
Speaking at an emergency news conference at the weekend, Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, said Nigerians travelling to Saudi Arabia must take precautionary measures in order not to contract the disease.
According to him, pregnant women, children, aged people, those with serious ailments like cancer, stroke and others, should not embark on the journey to Saudi Arabia for hajj as they were highly at risk.
Idris also urged all those who would be going on the pilgrimage to also get vaccinated against viruses like Meningitis because it is a virus that thrives where many people mingle, saying this explained why the Saudi authorities were insistent on would-be pilgrims taking the vaccine.
Researchers recently said the spread of the deadly coronavirus named Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, MERS, may not be as deadly as people feared after all…it is said not to be as dangerous as its cousin, SARS, which generated worldwide panic years ago, although research is still ongoing.
Idris stated that pregnant women and others who had already paid for the hajj should have their money refunded to them so that they could stay back home.
The commissioner added that Coronavirus had not been found in any state in Nigeria yet, saying Nigerian pilgrims were asked to take precautionary measures since the virus has been found in Asia, particularly in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. There had also been instances in the UK and France.
Idris likened the new virus to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, that ravaged the world some years back, urging the vulnerable group not to embark on the lesser Haj or the full hajj, and reiterated his earlier call on the people to observe a high standard of personal and environmental hygiene in order to reduce the risk of infection.
He called on the people to suspect Coronavirus in people that develop acute respiratory illnesses with a history of recent travel to areas where the virus has been reported and not responding to appropriate treatment for the listed complaints or a close contact with a symptomatic traveller to areas where the virus has been reported.
The commissioner added that though the World Health Organisation, WHO, was not restricting movement to the affected countries, as it is still studying the virus with a view to unraveling its nature and how best to deal with it, it became necessary for the state to feel concerned because of the large number of people who usually attend the pilgrimage from the state, especially since the virus spreads speedily.
He said the Saudi Arabian authorities had also tried to put some measures in place to avoid its spread by advising vulnerable people such as the elderly, pregnant women, children and people with chronic lung infections as well as stroke not to embark on the pilgrimage.
MERS spread has not been extensively studied by health experts but it has been confirmed that it could be transmitted easily from one person to another through coughing and sneezing, close contact such as touching or shaking the hands of an infected person, and touching one’s mouth, nose or eyes after touching contaminated objects or surfaces.
Human Coronavirus usually causes mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses and could progress to severe respiratory illness and pneumonia particularly in the aged, young and already ill people, while its symptoms include running nose, sore throat, shortness of breath and fever.
Health experts say there is no specific treatment for illnesses caused by Coronavirus. Most people with Coronavirus will recover on their own and they may require supportive treatment which includes staying at home, resting and drinking a lot of fluids.
However, those that progressed to severe distress will need to be admitted into the hospital for specialised care. Overall, 90 people in the Middle East have contracted the virus, with 45 of them already dead. Of the 90 people infected with the virus, 70 of them are in Saudi Arabia and 38 of them have died.
With over 70,000 Nigerians intending to travel to Saudi Arabia for this year’s hajj and Umrah, there are fears that many of them could contract the disease, which is highly communicable.
Saudi authorities have earlier reduced the number of pilgrims the country would allow for this year’s pilgrimage, but Saudi says the move was because of renovation going on at the Grand mosque, and not for fear of Mers spread.