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No restrictions on Haj pilgrims despite swine flu


Mumbai : No restrictions have been placed on Haj pilgrims from India by the Saudi Arabian government despite nearly 48 deaths being reported in the country from influenza A (H1N1) virus, a Haj committee official said saturday.

“There is no ban on Indian pilgrims intending to go on Haj in Saudi Arabia from Oct 20,” Haj Committee India chief executive officer Mohammed Owais told IANS here.

He said that Saudi Arabian government is maintaining strict vigil at all its airports for passengers with possible swine flu symptoms.

The Saudi Arabian government has, however, advised minors, senior citizens and pregnant women to take extra precautions regarding swine flu at the annual Haj, the largest single religious congregation on earth.

“The Indian government has indicated that a vaccine may be available within the next six months. In that case, the pilgrims may go without the vaccine,” Owais said.

Meanwhile, all preparations are in place for the 40-day pilgrimage.

“This year, 160,415 people will go to perform Haj. There is a possibility of another 15,000 being added. Besides, there is a quota of 2,300 for the Dawood Bohra community who will also join the pilgrimage,” said Owais.

Special flights will be available to Saudi Arabia from 17 destinations in the country and the committee has sought permission to add two cities to the list.

The Haj pilgrimage costs a maximum of Rs.115,000 per head or slightly less, all inclusive, depending upon the type of accommodation made available there.