Jeddah: With coronavirus cases rising rapidly across the globe, Saudi Arabia has laid out guidelines and health protocols for pilgrims who will be allowed to perform the rituals of this year’s Hajj in Mecca later this month.
This will be an experience that will be unlike any before for Muslims around the globe because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hajj pilgrimage, which usually witnesses around 2.5 million people every year, will this time be restricted to 10,000 or so pilgrims as Saudi Arabia has barred people from outside the country, allowing only a limited number of Saudi citizens (30%) and residents (70%) to participate to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Saudi pilgrims will be selected from among healthcare workers and security personnel who have recovered from Covid-19. The government said their selection represents a “token of appreciation for their role in providing care” during the pandemic.
New Hajj regulations:
- The pilgrims will be provided with pre-sterilized pebbles. The pebbles will be placed or wrapped in sealed bags ahead of time.
- Pilgrims will not be allowed to touch or kiss the black stone in Kaaba and barriers will be placed to prevent them from reaching the site.
- The mosque’s carpets will be removed and pilgrims will have to bring their personal prayer rugs.
- They will also have to wear masks and keep a safe distance during congregational prayers.
- Food will not be allowed in the mosque nor will it be permitted on the mosque’s grounds. Pilgrims will be served pre-packaged meals and food.
- The authorities will check temperatures of all pilgrims, personnel, guides, and workers throughout the pilgrimage.
- To ensure a smooth process of pilgrims’ entry and exit and to avoid crowding and stampede, specific entrances and exits will be allocated.
- The foreign residents in Saudi Arabia who want to participate in this year’s pilgrimage should be between the ages of 20 and 50, and that has not performed the hajj before.
- The pilgrims will have to quarantine before and after the hajj, and they will be tested for the coronavirus.
Saudi Arabia has one of the Middle East’s largest outbreaks of the virus, with infection rates rising by 3,000-4,000 cases daily. More than 213,000 people have contracted the virus in the kingdom so far, including 1,968 who have died.
Saudi Arabia said its decision to curtail the hajj was aimed at preserving global public health because of the risks associated with large gatherings. Those eligible per the guidelines will have until Friday to submit an application through the kingdom’s Hajj Ministry’s website.