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Saudi King postpones Maldives visit over swine flu outbreak

Saudi Arabia King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has cancelled his state visit to the Maldives over the H1N1 virus outbreak in the archipelago, government announced Friday.

During an emergency press conference foreign minister Dr Mohamed Asim said fresh dates for the King's visit would be announced later.

The custodian of the two holy mosques was slated to arrive in Maldives on Saturday as the last destination of his five nation tour of Asia including Indonesia, Japan, China and Malaysia.

King Salman was scheduled to spend a week in the Maldives which included a six day holiday.

The King's luxury yacht Al Salamah arrived in the Maldives and is presently docked off the coast of Male while the Boraida support vessel from the Saudi royal navy also arrived in the Maldives with two helicopters last week.

The Maldives government had been preparing for King Salman's visit with rehearsals for a red carpet welcome and security drills had been conducted even on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the latest Health Protection Agency (HPA) statistics have confirmed that the H1N1 virus is continuing to rise with over 100 people positive for the virus by Thursday.

The count was at 82 on Wednesday out of the 279 tested, but less than a day later the count has swelled to 105 after 335 people were tested for the virus.

The flu has already claimed the lives of two people, one 26 year old man in early March while a 51 year old woman had died late Wednesday.

Government along with private health care providers have set up multiple flu clinic throughout the capital and suburbs to provide round the clock service.

Public schools, universities and private colleges have suspended classes while the authorities have urged people in the Atolls against travelling to the capital.

The government along with a few private offices have granted indefinite leave for pregnant staff to minimize the risk of contracting the virus.

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