Arab health ministers, meeting in Cairo, have agreed to impose
restrictions on this year's Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in a bid to
control the spread of the H1N1 swine flu virus. The ministers are
forbidding those under age 12 and over age 65 from participating.
Growing fears of a flu epidemic across the Arab world is prompting Arab
health ministers to restrict participation in this year's annual Hajj.
an urgent meeting in Cairo, more than a dozen Arab health ministers
agreed to prevent young and elderly Hajj candidates, as well as those
with health problems, from traveling to Saudi Arabia for the annual
Saudi Arabia, which hosts the Hajj and grants visas to
participants, first recommended restricting participation last month.
The kingdom has had a number of H1N1 flu cases, and fears of a health
crisis during the Hajj were behind the move.
Minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah urged the Arab press to inform the public
about the decision to limit Hajj participation and noted that his
country was increasing the number of flu shots on hand to control an
The Saudi Kingdom, he argues, is working to protect the health of pilgrims.
says the recommendations on restricting Hajj participants have been
approved and will be put into action, and hopefully, they will
guarantee the safety of all those who want to perform their pilgrimage.
Eastern Mediterranean regional director of the World Health
Organization, Hussein Gezairi pointed out the recommendations of the
health ministers would be enforced and that no visas would be granted
unless Hajj candidates met all requirements.
organizational procedures were devised based on the categories that
have been determined by the Saudi health minister. Centers to approve
visa candidates will be set up, registered, and equipped under the
Health Ministry to prevent anyone from obtaining visa documents that
are not correctly approved.
Yemeni Health Minister Abdul Karim
Rasae, who chaired the conference, said the decision to prevent
vulnerable people from attending this year's Hajj was debated long and
hard before being approved.
He says all the ministers profited
from their discussions and the decisions that were arrived at stemmed
from their debate and had not been cooked up in advance.
Saudi government has the power to grant or deny visas according to its
own discretion, and the Saudis indicated last month that participation
in this year's Hajj should be restricted.