Cairo - Arab health ministers on Wednesday agreed to exclude certain groups including the elderly, children and the ill from Muslim pilgrimage in a bid to curb the spread of A/H1N1 flu.
In a draft resolution in a special session of the Regional Committee for World Health Organization (WHO) Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office on pandemic H1N1 in Cairo, health Minister of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt decided to take more measures for Hajj and Umrah (pilgrimage to Mecca at any time of the year).
People who are under the age of 12 or over 65 and people who suffer from chronic diseases like blood pressure, kidney and liver would not be permitted to go for Hajj and Umrah, Hussein Gezairy, WHO Regional director for Eastern Mediterranean, said at a press conference according to Saudi Press Agency.
Gezairy said the current evidence from the global experience shows that cancellation of mass gatherings does not necessarily lead to containment of transmission of the virus.
However, mitigation of the spread of the flu in mass gatherings can be aimed at by the proper application of non-pharmaceutical measures such as community level social distancing, good personal hygiene and use of personal protective equipment, he said.
Meanwhile, Saudi Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said the ministry initiated all measures necessary to detect the disease and to protect both its citizens and expatriates.
Regional Committee for WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office called the member states to take some additional precautions so as to reduce the number of deaths and infections.
Among these precautions is to make into effect the general health precautionary measures during Hajj and Umrah recommended by the international consultative workshop held in Jeddah on June 27-30. The draft resolution said Saudi Arabia would turn these health precautionary measures into preconditions for Hajj and Umrah this year.