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Jakarta Post

No changes to '€˜umrah'€™ schedules despite MERS scare, says minister

  • The Jakarta Post

    The Jakarta Post

Magelang   /   Thu, May 15, 2014   /  05:50 pm

Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali has said the government will neither delay nor reduce the number of umrah (minor pilgrimage) trips to Saudi Arabia, despite an increase in the number of cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in the country.

'€œThe answer is: no, or not yet,'€ he said when asked whether there would be any cancellations or delays to umrah trips due to MERS. He was speaking after a ceremony to mark Waisak, the Buddhist Day of Enlightenment, at Borobudur temple in Magelang, Central Java, on Wednesday evening, as quoted by tempo.co.

Suryadharma said the decision was made based on the considerations of several relevant institutions, including the World Health Organization (WHO), saying that the spread of MERS had not yet been categorized as an '€˜extraordinary event'€™. He added that fatalities as a result of the disease were not yet too high.

'€œThe fatality rate of MERS-CoV is around 34-35 percent,'€ he said, adding that such a rate was far lower than the fatality levels of bird flu (85 percent) and rabies.

Suryadharma said that the MERS virus began to spread in the Middle East in 2012. However, during the period of 2012-2013, no umrah or haj pilgrims from Indonesia were reported to have contracted the disease. The spread of the disease only started to escalate in 2014.

Nevertheless, the minister said, the government would remain vigilant, taking measures to prevent the spread of the disease. '€œDon'€™t ever let the virus spread in Indonesia,'€ he said. (fss/ebf)

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