International SOS and Control Risks have issued their latest advisory to members ahead of Hajj, which is expected to be a busy travel period for many.
Approximately 3 million pilgrims will travel to Mecca for the annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, set to take place from 9 to 14 September. Pilgrims have already been travelling to Saudi Arabia in the weeks leading up to Hajj, and many are expected to remain in the country up to four weeks after the Hajj itself.
James Bird, Regional Security Manager at International SOS and Control Risks in Dubai, said:
“This will be a busy period for major transport hubs in Saudi Arabia, but travel to and within all cities can continue with the usual provisions. While special preparations will accommodate the influx of pilgrims, members are advised to anticipate some delays and comply with any added security measures at the country’s airports and around key transportation hubs.
Our advice to members is to comply with all instructions issued by the local authorities, whether they are travelling for the pilgrimage or for business elsewhere in the Kingdom.”
Although it is not formally part of Hajj, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims also visit the holy city of Medina, either before or after they undertake the pilgrimage in Mecca.
Accordingly, overland travel routes are likely to experience increased congestion, particularly the Route 40 Highway that connects the capital Riyadh with Mecca and Jeddah, as well as Route 65 between Riyadh and Medina.
James Bird added:
“Road safety should be a main priority for travellers. Wherever possible, they should travel with a local, trained driver who is familiar with the roads and traffic rules in Saudi Arabia, and with whom they can easily communicate. Members are also advised to plan ahead and keep abreast of the latest developments through our alerts and Assistance App, or by calling one of our Assistance Centres.”
International SOS is also offering medical advice to members, including both pilgrims and business travellers to Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Issam Badaoui, Medical Director at International SOS in Dubai said:
“The annual Hajj pilgrimage brings together millions of worshippers from around the world each year. Conditions can get crowded, and travellers often face more disease risks and heavier physical exertion than they do at home. Solid preparations can help travellers preserve their health before, during and after their journey.”
Over the past month, sporadic cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) have been reported across Saudi Arabia.
Overall, the risk of contracting MERS-CoV is low if travellers take precautions. These include maintaining a high level of personal hygiene, avoiding contact with sick people, and staying away from live animals and their habitats.
Travellers should seek medical attention if they develop a fever and/or severe cough during or after their time in the Kingdom.
Dr. Badaoui added:
“Before travel, pilgrims should ensure they are aware of the health requirements and recommendations for entry into Saudi Arabia, and that their routine vaccinations are up-to-date. Additional, mandatory vaccinations include those against meningitis, yellow fever and polio. Saudi Arabian officials and International SOS also recommend that travellers have a seasonal flu vaccination before attending Hajj.”
With Hajj taking place during the hot summer month of September again this year, Dr. Badaoui also urged pilgrims to ensure they remain hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoid prolonged exposure to extreme sunlight and heat.