Hajj 2024: International SOS encourages organisations to prioritise pilgrim health and safety with new precautions

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Mumbai, 29 May 2024– The annual Hajj pilgrimage, a global gathering attracting over 1.8 million participants last year1, is expected to take place in Saudi Arabia from 14 to 19 June 2024. Due to the large scale of the event, ensuring the health and safety of all pilgrims requires a focus on preventive measures.

Meningococcal disease has been reported in travellers returning from Saudi Arabia, highlighting the importance of adhering to the requirements.2 International SOS, the world’s leading health and security services company, encourages organisations with employees participating in the Hajj pilgrimage to ensure their workforce is aware of essential precautions for a safe and healthy spiritual journey.

Aligned with the latest health and safety regulations established by the Saudi Arabian authorities, International SOS has developed a comprehensive guideline focused on ensuring pilgrims’ health, security and wellbeing. The guideline outlines crucial pre-travel considerations including several newly implemented requirements. It highlights the official permit and vaccination requirements, heat mitigation strategies as well as promoting vigilance and awareness of surroundings to ensure individual safety, particularly during crowd surges.
Dr Nosa Aihie, Regional Medical Director, Middle East, at International SOS, said: “It is important for pilgrims to adhere to vaccination requirements listed by the government of Saudi Arabia to protect themselves and their peers from various infectious diseases. This includes the required vaccination against meningitis administered no more than three years and at least ten days prior to the planned arrival in Saudi Arabia. In line with this, pilgrims are advised to carry valid health certificates stating they are free from any acute, chronic or infectious diseases.

Furthermore, we suggest scheduling activities to avoid peak heat hours whenever possible and being adequately hydrated during Hajj, as pilgrims may experience heat-related illnesses and dehydration.”
Gulnaz Ukassova, Security Director at International SOS in Dubai, stressed the need for thorough pre-travel preparation and compliance with government directives, stating, “It is vital for pilgrims undertaking Hajj to thoroughly understand and comply with the relevant Hajj regulations prior to, and during, the pilgrimage. Pilgrims should expect large crowds at religious sites, particularly on the Jamaarat Bridge in Mina and around Al-Masjid Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca. Remain safe during crowd surges by staying alert to surroundings, adhering to designated lanes, avoiding walking against the direction of traffic and knowing the nearest emergency exits and evacuation routes. Pilgrims should also account for potential travel disruption and increased demand for various services during this period.”

Hajj 2024 health and safety guidelines for organisations and their workforce to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims:
·         Encourage employees undertaking Hajj to obtain vaccinations and health certification: All pilgrims are required to have proof of meningococcal disease vaccination. Ensure all routine vaccinations, including COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are up to date. Depending on their country of origin, travellers may be required to show proof of polio and yellow fever vaccination.
o   Registration on the ‘Sehaty’ app is mandatory to verify vaccination status and facilitate entry into the country for all pilgrims.
·         Ensure compliance with regulations: Encourage employees to always follow guidance provided by licensed Hajj operators for a safe and organised pilgrimage. Ensure they adhere to designated time slots allocated by authorities to help minimise overcrowding risks.
·         Offer security briefings and heightened situational awareness: Provide pre-departure briefings on security protocols, situational awareness practices and cultural sensitivities. Develop contingency plans to address potential travel disruptions during the Hajj.
·         Educate employees on risks of extreme temperatures: To mitigate the effects of potentially extreme temperatures, pilgrims should prioritise staying hydrated. Choosing lightweight and light-coloured clothing helps regulate body temperature and reduces heat stress.
·         Ensure crowd and emergency preparedness: Provide employees with crowd management guides with tips for navigating densely populated areas. Encourage pilgrims to save emergency contact information for police, ambulance services, embassy officials and local contacts on their mobile phones in case immediate assistance is needed.

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