Bandar Seri Begawan - The World Health Organisation (WHO) is working closely with Saudi authorities ahead of the annual Muslim Haj pilgrimage to Mekah next month following the global alert issued by the United Nations agency on Sunday about a new respiratory virus.
The virus has killed a Saudi national, while a Qatari man is critically ill in a London hospital, according to AFP.
Brunei will be sending 400 pilgrims to Mekah next month. The permanent secretary at the Brunei Ministry of Health announced yesterday the WHO had not reported any new case of acute respiratory syndrome with renal failure.
"As informed by the WHO, based on their risk assessment on public health impact, this event has not caused a serious impact to public health," Hj Saifulbahri Hj Mansor said during a health forum at the Radisson Hotel yesterday.
The Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam and Muslims must take part in the pilgrimage at least once during their lifetime if they are physically able to do so.
Nearly three million Muslim pilgrims took part in the Hal last year, which is the world's largest annual gathering.
Hj Saifulbahri added: "We cannot be complacent with the current surveillance systems and therefore, (we) need to maintain preparedness against (any) possible outcomes."
Reuters quoted WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl as saying on Tuesday: "This is not SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). It will not become SARS, it is not SARS-like."
He added that the WHO had "not established whether the virus spread by human-to-human contact or just how it was transmitted".
A MoH spokesperson said the ministry was aware of the situation, but that a national-level consultation was needed before releasing any further information.
When The Brunei Times approached the Ministry of Religious Affairs about the matter, officials declined to comment.
The Saudi Arabian Embassy said it would be issuing an update soon.
Meanwhile, the WHO on Wednesday urged health workers around the world to report any instances of acute respiratory infection among those who may have travelled to Saudi Arabia or Qatar and been exposed to virus.--Courtesy of The Brunei Times