CAIRO: Saudi Arabia said it will allow Egyptian pilgrims to enter the country even if they have not been vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, the Egyptian Travel Agents Association (ETAA) said.
Saudi officials said this was because the drug has not yet arrived in Egypt.
According to an ETAA statement, Saudi authorities said that the new regulations stipulating that pilgrims be vaccinated are only applicable to those hailing from countries where the drug is available.
Saudi regulations stipulate that Hajj pilgrims must be vaccinated against H1N1 before leaving their countries.
The ETAA’s religious tourism committee, responsible for Umrah and Hajj trips, extended the deadline for receiving pilgrims’ passports from travel agencies to Oct. 29.
The Egyptian Minister of Health had announced on Oct. 2 that Egyptian pilgrims would not be allowed to travel to Saudi Arabia without vaccination, as per rules set by the Saudi government. The ministry has not issued statements indicating otherwise since.
Adel Farid, chairman of the religious tourism committee, said in a recent statement that more and more Egyptians are applying for Hajj in light of Saudi’s new decision.
On Wednesday, Tourism Minister Zoheir Garranah said that Egypt will not cancel this year’s Hajj trips unless “a new and dangerous development occurs, according to the country’s official news website, egynews.net.
Garranah added that it is unlikely that those who already canceled their trips will be reimbursed.
Shoura Council MP Magdy Afifi called on the government to retract its earlier decision and compensate pilgrims who’ve canceled their trips.
Afifi, who is affiliated with the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), also stated that the government should be solely responsible for reimbursing pilgrims in case of cancellation.
By press time, the number of H1N1 cases reached 1,112 in Egypt.
Alexandria Governor Adel Labib announced Wednesday a new case in the faculty of engineering in the city’s Al-Azhar University.
The Ministry of Health announced 19 new cases, six of which appeared among school students.
According to Amr Kandil, deputy minister of health for precautionary measures, a six-year-old boy in Al-Gamalia primary school in Cairo, a seven-year-old boy in Omar Makram primary school in Cairo, a nine-year-old girl in Al-Iman private school in Cairo, a 10-year-old boy in Future private school in Cairo, a 10-year-old girl in Nasr private school in Cairo and an eight-year-old boy in the private Safa school in Helwan all tested positive for H1N1.
This, Kandil said, raises the total number of students infected to 35.
Three university students from the faculty of engineering at Cairo University, Al-Azhar and faculty of mass communications at the Modern Academy also tested positive for the virus.
The remaining 10 cases include four Egyptians who work in a daycare center along with six other cases that appeared among Americans who recently arrived to Egypt.
Kandil said that the total number of recovered cases increased to 1,066, with only 42 undergoing treatment in hospitals.
In a related note, the Egyptian health authorities at Cairo Airport denied two Dutch citizens entry after they refused to be admitted into Abasseya Homiyat hospital for tests.