CAIRO: A Health Quarantine Unit began functioning Thursday at Cairo’s International Airport to enforce restrictions set by Arab health ministers on travelers heading for Umrah and Hajj in Saudi Arabia.
The restrictions include denying vaccination and an international vaccine certificate to those who fail to submit a health certificate from a public hospital stating that they are free of any chronic diseases.
Children under 12 and the people above 65 have also been banned from going on pilgrimage this year.
The decision comes during the peak Umrah, smaller pilgrimage, season in the Islamic lunar months of Ragab, Shaaban and the holy month of Ramadan, which correspond to July through September.
Health officials and Muslim scholars around the Middle East have been debating whether or not to cancel this year’s Hajj to avert the spread of swine flu. They have been particularly concerned since Egypt reported its first death from swine flu on July 20. The victim was a 28-year-old woman who had just returned from Umrah in Mecca.
Last Thursday, Egypt s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said that anyone who disregards the ministers decisions will be considered a sinner, according to the Middle East News Agency (MENA).
In addition, Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, backed the ministers, saying they are the specialists and have the final say over this issue, said MENA.