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Oman restricts Saudi pilgrimage amid swine flu fears

Oman on Tuesday banned the elderly, people who are ill and children from travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform the lesser pilgrimage, umrah, in fear of contracting swine flu.

world Updated: Jul 07, 2009 11:07 IST

Oman on Tuesday banned the elderly, people who are ill and children from travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform the lesser pilgrimage, umrah, in fear of contracting swine flu.

The ministry of religious affairs issued a statement saying that the ban on performing the umrah is to “protect people and the society.”

The ministry did not clarify whether the ban will be extended to cover the main annual pilgrimage, or hajj, to the Muslim holy sites in Western Saudi Arabia, which falls this year in November.

In neighbouring Bahrain, hajj authorities also urged old and sick people, as well as pregnant women and children to skip the hajj this year, according to Al-Ayyam newspaper on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia last week warned elderly Muslims and pregnant women against undertaking the hajj this year as the threat of swine flu mounts worldwide.

It said it was hopeful that a swine flu vaccine could be readied ahead of the hajj, when more than 1.7 million pilgrims from all over the world descend on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

The number of A(H1N1) cases in the kingdom has reached 125, according to official count.