Muslim Hajj (Pilgrimage) - CC via Wikimedia
CAIRO -23 June 2020: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced the procedures and conditions for performing Islamic Pilgrimage (Hajj) for 2020, which will be held with a limited number of Saudi citizens and foreign nationals residing in the country.
Saudi Minister of Hajj Muhammad Saleh bin Taher said during a press conference held on June 23 that precautionary measures and protocols have been set by the Supreme Hajj Committee to organize a safe pilgrimage this year under the supervision of the Saudi Ministry of Health.
He also affirmed that Saudi Arabia was keen to enable Muslims to perform the rites of pilgrimage, despite the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Bin Taher added that Hajj this year will be performed without crowds, asserting that social distancing will be maintained along with other measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"It may be a thousand pilgrims or slightly more," the minister said.
For his side, Saudi Minister of Health Tawfiq al-Rabiah said that this year's Hajj will be open to those who are under 65 years of age and do not suffer from chronic diseases, a measure meant to mitigate the risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rabiah said that all pilgrims will undergo a coronavirus test before they are allowed to enter the holy sites and will stay in a 14-day house quarantine after performing the rituals. He added that tests would also be carried out on security personnel, workers at the holy sites, and the health practitioners serving the pilgrims.
"A hospital has been set up at every site in anticipation of any emergency, in addition to a health center at Mount Arafat," he said.
Pilgrims will also be accompanied by ambulances and medical personnel as they perform the rites.
Health Minister Salih also affirmed that due to the pandemic, no pilgrims from outside the kingdom will be allowed to participate in the Hajj this year.On the criteria for selecting pilgrims, the Saudi minister of Hajj and Umrah said, "We will coordinate with diplomatic missions to register their pilgrims."
The decision of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to reduce the number of pilgrims received Arab and international support, as religious bodies and institutions were unanimous in keeping with the decision in line with the legal necessity to preserve the health and safety of pilgrims.
Late February 2020, the Kingdom also suspended the pilgrimage for its own citizens and residents over coronavirus spread fears. Later, Saudi Arabia on Friday reopened Al-Haram Mosque in the holy city of Mecca and Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi in the holy city of Medina after temporarily closing them for one night for sterilization.
As yet, the number of COVID-19 cases that have been reported in Saudi Arabia reached 161,005 by adding 3,393 new cases on Monday, according to a statement from the Saudi Health Ministry.