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Gulf states discuss Ebola precautions ahead of haj

Representatives of the Gulf monarchies met in Riyadh on Wednesday (Aug 13) to discuss precautions against the Ebola epidemic ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage to Mecca in early October.

RIYADH: Representatives of the Gulf monarchies met in Riyadh on Wednesday (Aug 13) to discuss precautions against the Ebola epidemic ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage to Mecca in early October.

The executive bureau of the Gulf Cooperation Council's committee of health ministers met in the light of "preventive measures taken by some countries to protect against the Ebola virus ... and the approach of the haj," bureau director Taufik Khoja said.

The pilgrimage, the world's biggest Muslim gathering, draws two million people to Saudi Arabia each year, including many from the West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.

Khoja said the Gulf nations should work together to "respond to any emergency situation" and organise "preventive and precautionary measures including travel bans and refusal of entry visas and work permits," official SPA news agency reported.

Saudi Health Minister Adel Fakieh hoped the meeting would lead to "practical and realistic measures, without exaggerating or minimising" the risks from the Ebola virus. He said his ministry and other Saudi public health bodies were well prepared for the hajj season and were "taking account of the emergency situations" around the world.

The epidemic, the worst since Ebola was first discovered four decades ago, has killed more than 1,000 people since early this year, according to the World Health Organisation.

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