Egypt Prevents Pilgrimage to Mecca Amid Flu Ban

by VR Sreeraman on Aug 18 2009 1:54 PM

 Egypt Prevents Pilgrimage to Mecca Amid Flu Ban
Egypt on Monday prevented dozens of pilgrims over the age of 65 or under 25 from travelling to Mecca as part of measures to prevent the spread of swine flu, an airport official said.
"Fifteen percent of passengers who arrived on Monday at Cairo airport to travel to Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage were prevented from leaving," the official said.

He said the travel ban affected between 180-200 people "who belong to age groups banned from going on umrah (lesser pilgrimage) and hajj (annual Muslim pilgrimage) this year."

"The people banned from leaving are those over 65 and those under 25 because they are the most at risk of being contaminated by swine flu," the A(H1NI) virus, the official added.

Egypt began implementing the travel restriction on Sunday.

Pilgrims wanting to go on umrah or hajj must show airport officials in Cairo medical certificates to prove they do not suffer from any chronic diseases, including diabetes, officials said.

A spokesman for the Egyptian chamber of tour operators said pilgrims denied travel to Saudi Arabia, home of Islam's holiest shrines, will be reimbursed.

Arab health ministers agreed in July to restrict the number of people allowed to go on hajj and umrah after an Egyptian woman back from Saudi Arabia became the first swine fly death in the Middle East and Africa.

On July 25 Saudi health ministry spokesman Khaled Marghalani said his country was likely to ban people older than 65 and younger than 12 from this year's hajj which is due to take place in late November.

As well as the annual hajj, which all Muslims are required to make once in a lifetime if they have the means, the faithful can also make the lesser pilgrimage known as umrah at any time of the year.


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