The Philippines urged its large Muslim minority yesterday to reconsider plans to join pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia this year due to a deadly virus outbreak there.
About 6,500 Filipinos who are set to join the annual Hajj pilgrimage in October are being urged to go next year instead, when the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is expected to be under control, health department spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy said.
"We know it's a religious custom, but it is also our duty to provide health advisories," Lee Suy told AFP.
"It's an appeal for them to delay the trip if possible due to the MERS virus.... If possible, they should go next year."
Millions of pilgrims visit holy sites in western Saudi Arabia, the country worst hit by the disease, for the annual Hajj, the major Muslim pilgrimage that this year will take place in October, and for the Umrah, which is performed throughout the year.
The World Health Organization said last month that the surge in MERS cases has receded, but countries must maintain vigilance for the Muslim pilgrimages to Saudi Arabia.