Swine flu: Saudi Ministry says Haj pilgrims must get shots
Dubai: Amid the global scare following the outbreak of swine flu, Saudi Arabia has asked Haj pilgrims to provide health certificate showing that they have received flu shots two weeks prior to their departure for the holy sites in the country, Health Ministry said.
"The country will also require pilgrims to show proof they have received flu shots at home," a local newspaper quoted Khaled Al-Mirghalani, Saudi Health Ministry’s spokesman, as saying.
He also said that the Kingdom had a comprehensive plan for Haj operations that includes step to prevent the spread of the infectious disease.
"No one will be able to get a visa without fulfilling these new rules," Al-Mirghalani said adding that these conditions have been approved after consultations with top international experts in the field.
He urged pilgrims to wear masks in crowded places, sanitise their hands and seek medical help if they have flu symptoms.
Meanwhile, restricting Haj pilgrims to children under 12 and elderly people will soon be a definite condition for the forthcoming Haj season, Health Minister Dr Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said in a statement yesterday.
About three million pilgrims who flock to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina for Haj.
More than one lakh pilgrimage form India go to Kingdom every year to perform Haj.
An Arab News report quoted Al-Rabeeah as saying that the proposal had been sent to the cabinet for formal approval and would be forwarded to Saudi missions for action concerning the issuance of Haj visas.
The Health Ministry last week said that about 600 A(H1N1) virus infections have been reported in the country so far, with six deaths.
In addition to the age restrictions, Haj visas will not be given to pregnant women or to those who are chronically ill with heart, kidney, liver, lung, diabetes, obesity and hypertension problems.
The minister said that overseas Saudi missions would instruct Haj operators to inform pilgrims of the current requirements and advise them to follow the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.
He said that pilgrims taking part in the circumambulation, stoning of devil at Jamrat and the standing at Arafat would be required to wear face masks in order to reduce the risk of flu.
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