Swine Flu threatens Hajj


Saudi Arabia concern as British charity urges high-risk groups to defer visit

THE annual Hajj pilgrimage is under threat from swine flu.

As thousands of British Muslims finalise their packages to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage to Mecca later this year, authorities in the country have been forced to issue warnings.

Health authorities in the country, who are expecting over a million Muslims to descend on the country, have urged high risk groups including the elderly, children and pregnant women not to travel.

Quarantine facilities have been set up in Saudi airports and millions of vaccine doses have been pre-ordered.

Up to three million Muslims are expected in Saudi Arabia over the next five months on pilgrimages to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina. The largest number are expected in Mecca for the main Hajj pilgrimage in November and December this year.

British charity The Association of British Hujjaj said the advice had sent shockwaves across the British Muslim community.

They stood side by side with Saudi Arabia in warning those most likely to be affected by swine flu not to travel.

“We offer our support to the precautionary measures taken by Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and strongly urge elderly, pregnant women and children from the UK to defer their pilgrimage until the availability of the Swine flu vaccine,” a health official from the charity said.

“British pilgrims have always been at high risk of infections due to the crowded conditions at ceremonies, accommodation sites and on public transport. Therefore pilgrims must follow the guidelines issued by the authorities and they should be vaccinated against the Swine Flu virus once this vaccine is available at least two weeks before their departure to perform pilgrimage.”


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