Source: http://www.brudirect.com/DailyInfo/N.../22/nite13.htm

Haj Department Closely Watching H1N1 Situation
By Azaraimy HH

Bandar Seri Begawan - The Department of Haj is closely watching the latest developments in the Influenza A (H1N1) situation, the Borneo Bulletin was told yesterday. Officials from the department said that pilgrims can still go to perform the Umrah or Haj.

In about six months, hundreds of Bruneian pilgrims are expected to join over two million people from all over the world for the world's greatest annual religious congregation in Mecca.

"If there is a mechanism by which you want to spread a virus, this is it," .he Strait Times quoted Dr Albert Osterhaus, a professor at the Erasmus Medical Centre at the University of Rotterdam, as saying.

However, Awg Hj Sahrin bin Haji Ismail, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at the Department of Haj here said, "We have not received any kind of word or any kind of guideline or response plan from the Holy Land on this particular matter.
Neither have we received any word on the matter from the (authorities) here.

"But we are monitoring its development very closely. We will let the public know if we need to say something," he said.

For now, those who want to perform the umrah can still do so in the normal way, he said, adding that the Ministry of Health provided three vaccinations to pilgrims.

On the issue of the HIN1 virus, it is under the Ministry of Health's jurisdiction, he said.

Flu experts are casting a worried eye at the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, fearing that if the Influenza A (HIN1) poses a threat six months from now, a health crisis would be massively complicated by the Haj, Strait Times reported on Wednesday.

The paper reported the World Health Organisation (WHO) as saying on Tuesday that drug manufacturers would not be able to start making a vaccine until mid-July at the earliest, two months later than the previous predictions.

A Health Ministry spokesmen told the Bulletin that, "We have to be very careful not to spread panic. Brunei is taking every precaution against the spread of HIN1 virus as was publicised in the media lately.

"But in the case of Haj and Umrah pilgrims, we can only offer preventive guidelines, such as covering your mouth and nose while sneezing." -- Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin