July 26, 2019 / 1:23 PM / 25 days ago

Saudi Arabia bans travellers from Congo before haj over Ebola fears

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 26 (Reuters) - S audi Arabia has banned entry to travelers coming from Democratic Republic of Congo over fears Ebola could spread during next month’s haj pilgrimage.

The decision, announced in a note issued on Wednesday by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, cited last week’s decision by the World Health Organization to declare the Ebola outbreak an international emergency.

The WHO committee, however, had urged countries not to restrict trade or travel.

“The granting of arrivals visas for people entering from DRC has been stopped, to conserve the wellbeing of pilgrims,” the ministry’s note said.

The outbreak has killed over 1,700 people since it was declared nearly a year ago.

About 3% of Congo’s population is Muslim, according to polling by the New York-based Congo Research Group. People from sub-Saharan Africa make up about 10% of the more than 2 million annual pilgrims to the holy city of Mecca.

Saudi Arabia suspended pilgrimage visas for travellers from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia during the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people.

Reporting by Fiston Mahamba Writing by Anna Pujol-Mazzini Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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