Saudi Arabia suspends Hajj visas for DR Congo over Ebola

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has banned entry to pilgrims coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo over fears spread of Ebola virus during the Hajj season.

The announced was issued on Wednesday by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs citing last week’s move by the World Health Organization (WHO) that declared the Ebola outbreak in DRC’s eastern North Kivu and Ituri provinces a public health emergency of international concern.

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

It was not clear how many people’s Muslim pilgrims from Congo were affected by the ban but WHO urged no country should close its borders or place any restrictions on travel or trade because of Ebola and urging governments elsewhere in Africa and around the world not to “panic” in response to the decision.

Three percent of DRC’s 80 million population are Muslims, according to a poll by the New York-based Congo Research Group,

The Ebola virus which traces its roots in Congo has so far killed more than 1,700 people mainly in the mineral-rich central African state.

More than 2.5 million Muslims are expected to make annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca this year among them are 11500 Somali citizens.