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Published On: Thu, Aug 7th, 2014

Ebola: Nigerian pilgrims not banned from Hajj

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Ebola-SaudiiBy Maryam Garba Hassan & Doyin Ojosipe

The National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) and the Nigerian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia,Abubakar Shehu have separately maintained that Nigeria is not among three West African countries banned from performing this year’s hajj exercise by the Saudi Arabian authorities over the Ebola outbreak in the sub-region.

In a statement issued yesterday in Abuja by the Commission’s spokesman Uba Mana, the Commission said there is no formal communication from the Saudi Arabia government indicating that Nigeria has been banned from performing this year’s Hajj.

This is just as Ambassador Shehu, said in exclusive telephone chat with the People’s Daily yesterday that the embassy is yet to receive any official communication from the Saudi authorities on the ban allegedly placed on pilgrims from some West African countries.

“We have not been told officially, we have not received any official communication on the alleged ban on Nigeria, it is not true, and if there is anything like that they communicate to us in writing. I have called my office and they said there is nothing like that”

NAHCON said the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Abuja had on Tuesday released to the Commission the required codes for the processing of visas for the intending pilgrims while arrangements for the exercise are on-going and have not been hampered by any internal or external factors.

According to the statement, the Commission had also interfaced with all the relevant Federal ministries on Ebola issue and the Federal government is doing everything possible to make this year’s Hajj exercise a success.

It said information available to the Commission shows that only three countries in the West African sub-region have been banned which are Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

It said discussions between the Saudi authorities and the governments of the three affected countries on the visa suspension over the Ebola virus started four months ago.

The statement further explained that the Saudi authorities have equally assured the affected countries that the suspension of the three countries will be reviewed as soon as the World Health Organization (WHO) issues a statement that citizens in these countries are allowed to travel for Hajj.

Commending the efforts of all federal agencies and the Saudi Arabian authorities for their efforts on the welfare of the pilgrims, the Commission assured the general public that the airlift of the Nigerian pilgrims slated for this month will go on as scheduled.

People’s Daily had reported Tuesday that the Saudi Arabian government had banned pilgrims from Nigeria and three other West African countries from this year’s Hajj over Ebola outbreak. But we have since found out that our facts were mixed up.

Meanwhile, the Aljazeera reported yesterday that Saudi Arabia has suspended pilgrimage visas from West African countries to counter the further possible spread of the disease.

The report said that a man suspected of contracting Ebola virus during business trip to Sierra Leone died at a specialized hospital in Saudi city of Jeddah.

According to Ajazera,” A Saudi man suspected of being infected with the Ebola virus passed away at 8:45am on Wednesday at a specialized hospital in Jeddah”, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.

The statement added that the Ministry of Health had submitted samples from the man to a US laboratory recommended by the World Health Organisation, as well as an accredited laboratory in Germany, for testing.

The ministry said it was working to trace the man’s route of travel and monitoring people he came in contact with.

In related development, a Nigerian nurse who participated in the treatment of Patrick Sawyer, a Liberia and U.S. citizen who died of Ebola in Lagos last month shortly after arriving at the airport has died.

The death of the nurse, the first Nigerian native to die of the virus brings to second confirmed fatality from the disease in Nigeria, according to Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu who disclosed at a press briefing Wednesday saying that five other cases were being treated at an isolation ward in Lagos. Bringing the total number of Ebola confirmed cases to 7

“Nigeria has now recorded seven confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVB), those who have died include the “index patient,” a Liberian who brought the virus to Lagos on July 20, and a nurse who treated him, the minister said

“All the Nigerians diagnosed with EBV were primary contacts” of Patrick Sawyer, who worked for Liberia’s finance ministry and contracted the virus from his sister, Mr Chukwu said.

The Ebola death toll has risen to 932 after 45 patients died between Aug. 2 and Aug. 4, the World Health Organization said in a statement on Wednesday.

World Bank said on Monday that it would provide up to $200m in emergency assistance to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to help the West African nations contain the deadly outbreak.

 

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