08/06/2009, 00.00
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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.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Iranian government has decided to ban the pilgrimage to Makkah during the month of Ramadan (22 August – 19 September) to avoid the risk that the swine flu might spread among pilgrims.

“The H1N1 Virus Prevention Committee has decided that the last Iranian pilgrim must leave Saudi Arabia before the start of Ramadan,” said Iranian Health Minister Mohammad Bagher Lankarani.

According to the minister, Iranian authorities have identified 145 cases of swine flu, mostly pilgrims returning from Makkah.

More than 600 people in the Saudi Kingdom have been affected by swine flu resulting in six deaths.

Saudi Arabia has decided to release entry visas only to Hajj pilgrims between the ages of 12 and 65. Visas will not be given to pregnant women or those who are chronically ill with heart, kidney, liver, lung, diabetes, obesity and hypertension problems

In addition to antiviral drugs the authorities will instruct Hajj operators to inform pilgrims that they will be required to wear face masks to reduce flu risks.

The swine flu is spreading in Iran but no one has died so far.

Each year hundreds of thousands of Iranians travel to Makkah for Hajj.

This year hajj begins on 19 November, but people can perform Umrah, the little pilgrimage, any time of the year with Ramadan as the favourite period.

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