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Hajj pilgrims need flu jab for visa

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Muslims planning to travel from Britain to Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage will need to be vaccinated against seasonal flu before they can enter the country.

New travel rules from the Saudi government mean that Britons cannot apply for a visa without a vaccine certificate that is at least two weeks old.

If a vaccine for swine flu is available before November, when the annual Hajj pilgrimage takes place, British Muslims will be required to have that as well to prevent further outbreaks of H1N1.

About two million Muslims from around the world travel to the holiest place in Islam, Mecca every year.

But Saudi Arabia advised ‘high-risk’ groups not to travel to this year’s pilgrimage for their own safety. The World Health Organisation classes patients with chronic diseases, pregnant women, children and the elderly as ‘high-risk’.

Communities minister Shahid Malik said the risks associated with so many people in one place had prompted the measures.

He said: ‘It is inevitable that at an event where two million people are expected to meet, viruses will spread quickly - and this year there is greater concern about flu, particularly for vulnerable people.’

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