Even as two people died of the MERS coronoavirus prior to the 2013 Haj, AP reports that many pilgrims are unconcerned about getting infected with the virus.
AP reports that while some people are wearing masks, an overwhelming majority of pilgrims said that they have never even heard of MERS , which has claimed the lives of 51 people in Saudi Arabia.
Over two million pilgrims are expected at this year’s Haj which starts on Sunday and ends on October 18. Health officials have expressed concerns that pilgrims could take the virus back to their home countries.
However, Saudi authorities are optimistic. They point to the 2013 minor pilgrimage session (Umrah ) during Ramadan that passed without incident.
In keeping with the sentiments of the occasion, a number of pilgrims have said they will place their faith in God.
“We depend on God,” said middle-aged Ahmad Mahmoud from Egypt was quoted by saying by AP as he walked without a mask in a sea of people near the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest shrine. He had been handed a mask at the airport, which he plans to wear later.
Health officials are checking airport arrivals to ensure that they have the proper vaccinations for illnesses like influenza and meningitis. However, scientists around the world are still struggling to understand and decipher the MERS coronavirus .