Numbers of pilgrims will likely not exceed 10,000 this year due to coronavirus: Saudi health minister

Ahram Online , Tuesday 23 Jun 2020

file photo taken with slow shutter speed, Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic buildi
file photo taken with slow shutter speed, Muslim pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, durning the hajj pilgrimage in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. (AP)

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced the procedures and conditions for performing the Hajj pilgrimage for this year, which will be held with a limited number of Saudi citizens and foreign nationals residing in the country.

Saudi Minister of Health Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said in a joint press conference on Tuesday with Minister of Hajj and Umrah Muhammad Salih that this year's Hajj will be open to those who are under 65 years of age and do not have chronic diseases, a measure meant to mitigate the risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Al-Rabiah said that all pilgrims will undergo a coronavirus test before they are allowed to enter the holy sites, and will remain in 14-day house quarantine after performing the rituals.

Al-Rabiah added that tests will 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 centre at Mount Arafat," he said.

Pilgrims will also be accompanied by ambulances and medical personnel as they perform the rites.

The Saudi Minister of Hajj said, "We have exceptional plans for the Hajj this year," stressing that "the Hajj pilgrimage will be safe and healthy."

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, stressing that the number of pilgrims will be very limited, and will likely not exceed 10,000.

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 Hajj minister also stressed that social distancing measures will be observed during the Hajj and large crowds will be avoided.

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