RIYADH (Reuters) - Several Muslim countries have imposed restrictions on pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia due to worries about a major outbreak of H1N1 flu.
The most populous Arab state has decided to restrict umra and haj pilgrims to those over 25 and under 65 years. Egypt also plans to inoculate pilgrims against the H1N1 virus.
Tunisia has canceled trips to perform umra this year and imposed tight restrictions on travel for the haj, especially on children and elderly pilgrims. Tunisia’s Ministry for Religious Affairs has also advised people to postpone making haj this year, citing concerns about the spread of the flu virus.
The Iraqi government prevented Iraqis from going to umra directly from Iraq during Ramadan because of swine flu. The same restriction will not be in place for haj — only for sick people, pregnant women and people above 65 years of age.
Some Iraqis have gone anyway, traveling through other countries, said Sheikh Mohammed Taqi al-Mowla of the haj and umra commission.
Shi’ite Iran banned pilgrims from performing the umra during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
Morocco plans no restriction on travel for haj if the situation does not deteriorate in Saudi Arabia but has made it mandatory for its more than 30,000 pilgrims to get the anti-flu vaccine.
Authorities will allow them to travel to haj only when they have their passports stamped by health officials to prove their vaccination, officials said.
Reporting by Tarek Amara in Tunis, Ghanmi Lamine in Rabat, Missy Ryan in Baghdad and Cynthia Johnson in Cairo; Editing by Samia Nakhoul