RIYADH, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Saudi Arabia is taking precautionary measures to deal with the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus ahead of the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage, local Okaz newspaper reported on Monday.
More than two million Muslims worldwide are expected to travel to Mecca, Islam's holiest city, for the yearly event which, according to the Saudi Supreme Court, starts on Tuesday.
The Saudi government has allocated more than 52 ICU units and isolation rooms in Mecca for suspected and confirmed MERS cases, Emad Al Jihdli, an official from the Saudi health ministry, told the newspaper.
As study shows that most camels in Saudi Arabia are carrying MERS, the authority has banned access of camels to Mecca as well as slaughtering camels during the Eid al-Adha.
Since the first case was confirmed in Saudi Arabia in June 2012, the coronavirus has killed more than 500 people and made the kingdom the most heavily infected country.
However, the Saudi government has declared zero MERS infection among the Hajj pilgrims for the past three years.
MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. Typical MERS symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and approximately 36 percent of reported patients with MERS have died, according to the World Health Organization.