Hajj limited to 1,000 pilgrims

24th Jul 2020
Hajj limited to 1,000 pilgrims

A few workers are seen nearby empty Kaaba after the precautions against Covid-19 are taken in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (Credit: Stringer/Anadolu Agency)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Saudi Arabia has said “a thousand or less” Muslims residing in the country can take part in this year’s hajj pilgrimage due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On June 23, the Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammed Saleh Benten, told a virtual press conference that the annual pilgrimage to the Islamic holy sites of Makkah and Madina, which usually draws 2.5 million visitors, would be limited to a few thousand residents.

The number “may be in the thousands,” Benten said. “We are in the process of reviewing, so it could be a thousand or less, or a little more.”

“Only people residing in the Kingdom, who are under 65 years of age and who do not have chronic diseases will be allowed to perform Hajj this year. They will get tested before arriving to the holy sites and will be subject to self-isolation after performing Hajj,” he said.

He added that the Hajj ministry would cooperate with diplomatic missions in the Kingdom to determine the number of eligible non-Saudi residents.

Touching the Kaʿbah, the sacred cube building in the Great Mosque in Makkah, will be banned during the hajj this year, and social distancing space of a meter and a half between each pilgrim during the rituals including mass prayers and while in the Kaabah circling area will be imposed, a statement by the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control elaborated.

Also, access to holy hajj sites at Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafah will be limited to organizers and pilgrims with permits, both must wear masks at all times. Media coverage of this year’s Hajj will be in line with adopted health measures, he said.

There had been speculation that this year’s hajj would be cancelled altogether after the country recorded 161,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 1,300 deaths. A three-month 24-hour curfew has just been lifted, but international travel is still banned.

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