Wednesday, November 25, 2009


JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia : Massive security and medical preparations are in place today in Mina to receive around three million pilgrims for the Day of Tarwiyah, the first day of Haj.

The Saudi government has over 100,000 security officers on duty - which represents 50 percent of the government Haj personnel - to oversee the safe movement of pilgrims to Mina. The security forces had earlier carried out mock exercises to prepare for the enormous influx of people.

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, emphasized that the security forces are ready to deal with any threat to the safety of pilgrims, including those posed by the infiltrators.

As part of the security plan, small cars will not be allowed into Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah. Only buses carrying 25 passengers or more will be allowed to enter, he said.

Security forces have also tightened control over Makkah entry points to stop the smuggling of pilgrims and prevent the entry of unlicensed street vendors.

All medical staff are ready for any eventuality, according to Dr. Yaqoub Bin Yousuf Al-Mazrou, chairman of the Haj Preparatory Committee at the Ministry of Haj.

The 160-bed Mina Al-Wadi Hospital with a 25-bed intensive care unit, which was built in 11 months, is now fully operational. The Ministry of Health also has a PCR laboratory (Polymerase Chain Reaction) for the state-of-the-art detection of various viruses, including the swine flu virus.

Dr. Khaled Merghalani, spokesman of the Ministry of Health, said recently that there have only been four deaths from swine flu, from a total of 68 cases among pilgrims. The ministry has mobilized more than 17,609 medical staffers, including doctors, technicians, nurses and administrators to provide quality medical service to pilgrims.

To prevent the spread of infectious diseases, the Ministry of Health has also urged pilgrims to use their own disposable shaving equipment and not to share with others.

It also warned pilgrims about the razors used in barber shops because this is one of the main ways to transmit diseases such as Hepatitis and AIDS. Pilgrims should also not use a barber?s after shave brush; or the powder usually used by barbers to remove loose hair. This contains harmful germs, the ministry added.

To help pilgrims deal with the sun, the Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) has distributed umbrellas to all Guests of Allah at King Abdul Aziz Airport. Mina?s fireproof tent city is ready to accommodate pilgrims. The tents have a lifespan of 50 years, and are now only 10 years old.

Pilgrims have also been warned by the General Directorate of the Civil Defense not to sleep inside pedestrian tunnels because it hampers the flow of people and can cause stampedes and suffocation. The Civil Defense has printed this precautionary measure in bulletins and distributed thousands to pilgrims. Moreover, it cautioned pilgrims from littering and throwing waste at the emergency exits of the tunnels.

The Ministry of Haj and other government agencies have erected huge TV screens to broadcast awareness programs for pilgrims.- SAUDI GAZETTE.

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