BEIJING // Chinese officials moved to give swine flu vaccinations to thousands of Muslims making a pilgrimage to Mecca in the coming days as health authorities reported the mainland's third death from the illness. China has acted aggressively to detect and contain swine flu cases after being accused of failing to move quickly enough to stop the 2003 outbreak of Sars. Despite earlier measures such as strict quarantines, authorities say the virus is spreading from cities into the countryside.
A patient died from swine flu on Sunday in the far western region of Xinjiang, the Health Ministry said yesterday in a regular update, without providing details. The previous two deaths also occurred in the west, in Qinghai province and Tibet. The ministry said a total of 35,664 cases of swine flu had been reported on the mainland by Monday, with 2,600 new cases since Friday. In northwestern Ningxia, home to China's largest community of the Hui Muslim minority group, more than 2,000 Muslim pilgrims were vaccinated against swine flu, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
Each person paid 5 yuan (Dh2.7) to cover "equipment cost," the report said, citing Ma Shouyu, head of religious affairs of Haiyuan. The pilgrims were scheduled to depart on chartered flights this Saturday for the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the report said. All of China's 12,700 Muslims making pilgrimage to Mecca this year will be inoculated against swine flu, Xinhua said. The government has licensed eight manufacturers in China to produce swine flu vaccines. Health authorities say they are expected to produce enough to inoculate 5 per cent of China's population of 1.3 billion people by the end of the year.
Priority groups include students, health workers and people suffering chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. * AP