Arab health ministers have agreed to impose restrictions on this year's
Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca in a bid to prevent the spread of the H1N1
After meeting in Cairo Wednesday, more than a dozen ministers agreed to
forbid those over the age of 65, people under the age of 12 and those
with chronic illnesses from taking part in the Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia first recommended restricting participation in the annual
pilgrimage, after a number of flu cases were reported in the kingdom.
The country's health ministersays the government is increasing the number of flu shots on hand to help control a possible outbreak.
World Health Organizationofficials, who also attended Wednesday's meeting, say the decision must be ratified by the health ministers' governments.
As of Tuesday, the WHO said the swine flu virus had killed more than 700 people across the world since emerging in April.
Laboratory tests have confirmed at least 125,000 swine flu infections worldwide.
WHO'S Eastern Mediterranean regional director (Hussein Gezairi) says
the health ministers' recommendations would be enforced and that no
visas would be granted unless Hajj candidates met all requirements.
More than two-million Muslim pilgrims attended last year's Hajj, and it
is not yet clear how the new restrictions will affect attendance at the
Hajj in November.
Muslims are expected to perform the pilgrimage to Islam's holiest cities at least once in their lifetimes.