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  • » 11/19/2009, 00.00


    Swine Flu: no deaths among the faithful to Mecca, but pilgrims are down by 70%

    The Saudi Ministry of Health confirms that there are no victims from H1N1 among Muslims travelling to the holy places on the Haj. Strengthened control measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Sharp decline in number of pilgrims and heavy losses in the field of religious tourism. The latest data from WHO.

    Mecca (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Saudi Ministry for Health has confirmed that, at present, there have been no deaths from influenza A among pilgrims heading to Mecca. However, the number of the faithful travelling to the Saudi holy sites of Islam is in sharp decline - about 70% less than in 2008 - for fear of possible infection.  

    Khaled Al-Merghalani, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, has reassured the public by saying that "to date there have been no new deaths from flu among pilgrims" and all those who have symptoms of the disease, "have received the necessary care and have recovered. The official confirmed that "the situation is under control" and "inshallah, this is reassuring."  

    Saudi Arabia has stepped up preventive measures against swine influenza in view of Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, which every year draws millions of Muslim faithful. The government has set up a vaccination campaign, devices for detecting the temperature of passengers arriving at airports and at the entrance of Jeddah.  

    Last week, Minister for Health, Abdullah al-Rabia, said there were only nine cases of H1N1 among pilgrims, the number of victims in the country is 70, but none is one of the faithful on the Hajj. The total number of infections in the kingdom has reached 7 thousand.   

    Despite the preventive measures and assurances by the authorities, the number of Saudi faithful who have asked the permissions for the pilgrimage has "dropped by 70%" compared to last year. "Today there are about 68 thousand permits issued," said Saad Al-Qurashi, head of the Commission for the Hajj and Umrah at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Mecca. "The figure includes immigrants and people who come from neighbouring countries."

    Al-Qurashi said that so far the permits issued to foreign pilgrims reached around 1.7 million, a number significantly lower than in previous years and involves heavy losses in the travel and tourism. A decrease in the number of pilgrims has also emerged during the month of Ramadan. This is why the Saudi Department responsible for issuing permits for the pilgrimage has decided to extend the subscription period, hoping for a last minute large influx.  

    A November 8 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), states that human cases of H1N1 around the world has exceeded 50 thousand, with more than 6200 victims. In Southeast Asia there are 678 dead and more than 44 thousand cases of infection.  In the Western Pacific there are over 150 thousand infections compared to 516 deaths. In the region of the eastern Mediterranean more than 25 thousand cases of infection, 151 confirmed deaths.


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    See also

    30/10/2009 SAUDI ARABIA
    Swine flu a hoax by business interest, Saudi religious scholar says
    A member of the Senior Ulema Council claims pandemics is a hoax and that only “God decides in the matter”. He backs his argument by saying that during Ramadan, the number of funerals did not rise over the previous year, and that many of the people he knew did not get the disease despite not being vaccinated.

    23/07/2009 SAUDI ARABIA
    Swine flu pushes authorities to warn pilgrims to be prudent about pilgrimage to Makkah
    Officials from Muslim states agree to precautionary measures. Saudis will not however cut national quotas. About three million faithful make umrah each year.

    10/12/2009 KOREA - UNITED STATES
    Swine Flu: Pyongyang accepts South’s "unconditional" offer to contain pandemic
    North Korea has accepted the offer of medical supplies and confirmed nine cases of infection. Closure of primary and secondary schools. South Korea NGO reports seven deaths from H1N1. Ended of three-day visit by U.S. diplomat to Pyongyang.

    06/08/2009 IRAN – SAUDI ARABIA
    Tehran bans pilgrimage to Makkah because of the swine flu
    Iran has 145 known cases of the flu, almost all involving travellers from Makkah. In Saudi Arabia anti-flu measures are stepped up. Pregnant women and people with heart, kidney, liver, lung, diabetes, obesity and hypertension problems are banned from going on pilgrimage.

    20/07/2009 EGYPT - SAUDI ARABIA
    First swine flu death among pilgrims to Mecca
    The deceased is an Egyptian woman of 25 who visited the holy city of Islam to make the umra, the journey to Mecca, which can be accomplished at any time of year. The clergy of Islamic countries discuss the need to issue a special fatwa on the swine flu epidemic ahead of the great hajj pilgrimage in November that will bring millions of faithful to Saudi Arabia.

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