RIYADH, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Saudi Arabia is ready for the annual Islamic hajj pilgrimage despite a rise in cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome(MERS) coronavirus infections, Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabia said.
"We are working hard to control the spreading of the virus and ready for Hajj season," al-Rabia told the local press. "We have long and competent experience in mass gathering medicine as we as an international reference in this field."
On Sunday, the health ministry announced 13 new cases in four cities, but said that the mortality rate had been reduced from 60 percent to 32 percent.
Al-Rabia attributed the rise in reported cases to improved approach to tests rather than an accelerated spread of the virus.
No vaccines are available for the disease and its transmission routes remain unknown, the minister said, adding that five international pharmaceutical firms have been trying to develop a vaccine.
According to local media, 97 people have died from MERS corona virus infection out of 244 confirmed cases since 2012.