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This year, it will be a lot harder to get a Hajj visa for many Muslims, as the Saudi government has a new set of advisories in the wake of the MERS virus outbreak: Wear face masks.

As Muslims embark on Ramadan, Hajj is a mere three months away yet many have begun the tedious and sometimes arduous process of getting a Hajj visa. With a new SARS-like virus in the Saudi peninsula, the Health Ministry is limiting visas to Hajj this year.

READ: A Forest of Umbrellas Keeps Medina Pilgrims Cool (ILLUME)

The Hajj pilgrimage is mandatory for Muslims. Each year, tens of millions of Muslims gather in Mecca to perform various prayer rituals.

The Middle Eastern Respiratory Virus, or MERS, has plagued 85 people and left 41 dead. The illness involves a lung infection with a fever, coughing and shortness of breath, says the Centers for Disease Control.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has issued health guidelines for those attending Hajj this year, asking pilgrims to wear a face mask in crowded areas.

SEE: [PHOTOS]  Hajj: The Journey of a Lifetime  (ILLUME)               

But not all will be allowed to perform Hajj. The elderly and the chronically ill won't be issued visas this year, reports The Telegraph. The same goes for pregnant women and those with immunity deficiency.

The United States government issued a notice in June, declaring that MERS posed a national security threat, especially as American Hajj pilgrims return to the U.S., as many Americans could potentially contract the MERS virus at Hajj and bring it back to the United States.

Says Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius: “there is a significant potential for a public health emergency that has a significant potential to affect national security or the health and security of United States citizens living abroad.”

The World Health Organization has not made any MERS-related travel restrictions as of yet.

READ: The Tragic Transformation of Mecca (ILLUME)

 





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