Thursday, August 6, 2009

New regulations for pilgrims.

Anti-flu steps finalized for Umrah pilgrims.
Muhammad Humaidan Arab News

JEDDAH: Precautionary measures against the spread of swine flu during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan have been approved by the committee on Haj and Umrah at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Health Affairs Department in Makkah province, according to chairman of the committee Saad Jameel Al-Qurashi.

He explained that, under these measures, Umrah companies will be asked to provide resident medical doctors in all hotels in the holy city to examine and follow up the health condition of the occupants and to refer infected people to the government hospitals for treatment.

“A seminar to enlighten pilgrims about precautionary measures will be held in Makkah in September with the participation of a number of doctors and specialists,” he said. Al-Qurashi said Umrah companies would distribute masks among pilgrims coming from outside and added that awareness programs would be implemented to curb the spread of the disease among the guests of God.

He said the committee will sign contracts with a number of private hospitals and clinics to provide medical doctors to reside in hotels in Makkah to follow up on the health conditions of the residents and enlighten them about the precautionary measures they should follow to avoid the virus. Al-Qurashi asked all citizens, visitors and pilgrims to abide by the health measures to curb the spread of the swine flu and said all the health sectors in the holy city are geared up to take preventive and curative measures against the virus, particularly that a large number of people who flock into Makkah for Umrah during Ramadan are old people who are more susceptible to the infection. Al-Qurashi noted that pilgrims who have come for Umrah so far this year number more than 300,000 over the same period last year. He added that all government departments are doing their best to ensure that pilgrims perform their Umrah and Haj in ease and comfort. He also noted a drop in the number of external businessmen and VIPs coming for Umrah this year and said as a result, the prices of five-star hotels have gone down by 20 percent to 30 percent.

“It is obvious that this category of people were scared by the swine flu,” he added.Al-Qurashi said that it was natural for the prices of bus fares to rise by up to 20 percent during Ramadan because most of the buses are rented from neighboring countries.

Meanwhile, under instructions of Health Minister Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, the director of health affairs in Makkah, Dr. Khaled Obaid Zafar, presided over a meeting Wednesday which grouped together his assistants for curative and preventive medicine, directors of health affairs in Jeddah, Taif and Qunfudah and directors of general hospitals in the region to prepare the health plan for the month of Ramadan, especially under the light of the current swine flu pandemic.

Spokesman of health affairs in Makkah, Faiq Hussein said the meeting discussed precautionary and preventive measures that could be taken to protect visitors of the Grand Mosque during the fasting month.

“It also discussed the readiness of all hospitals to deal with emergency cases,” he added

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