Amid Coronavirus, Hajj Pilgrimage Begins With 10,000 Pilgrims

Pilgrims allowed are those already present in the kingdom, 70 percent being foreigners and the rest Saudi citizens.

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World
2 min read
On 27 February, Saudi halted travel to the holiest sites in Islam over fear of coronavirus. Image used for representational purposes.
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Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year's Hajj, has been scaled back dramatically to include only around a reported 10,000 Muslim pilgrims starting Wednesday, 29 July for five days.

This is in stark contrast to the 2.5 million people who usually participate in the ritual.

Hajj officials have informed that the pilgrims allowed are those already present in the kingdom, 70 percent being foreigners and the rest Saudi citizens.

This decision taken by Saudi Arabia, factoring the increase in cases across the world and the risk of exposure, has triggered a lot of dissent and disappointment among Muslims all over the world.

Saudi Arabia's director of public security has reportedly said while there were no security concerns this time around, measures had been taken to protect pilgrims from the pandemic.

Mandatory masks, social distancing, temperature checks and compulsory quarantine before and after the pilgrimage are some of the new rules. Touching or kissing the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, has reportedly been banned this year.

On 27 February, Saudi had halted travel to the holiest sites in Islam over fear of coronavirus.

Pilgrims above 65 years of age will not be allowed this year. All pilgrims will be reportedly tested for coronavirus before arriving at the holy city of Mecca and are required to quarantine at home after the worship.

According to State media reports, health workers have been sanitising the luggage of pilgrims and reportedly providing electronic wristbands to monitor their movement.

In a First, Hajj Symposium Held Virtually

Zayed Al Tuwailan, commander of Hajj Security Forces, warned of prison time and fines against violators, with non-Saudis even facing deportation. Earlier, between 2014 and 2016, due to Ebola, Muslims from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and several other African countries were excluded from the Hajj.The Hajj is an important source of income, generating $5.3 billion and $6.9 billion for the local economy, according to Mecca's chamber of commerce.Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on 27 July hosted the annual Grand Hajj Symposium virtually for the first time. The symposium is a cultural and scientific meet, held every year in the city of Makkah during Hajj season.

Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, HE Dr Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, said “a treasure trove of Prophetic teachings that embody a holistic approach to disease prevention and treatment” had been presented through the various papers at the symposium.

(With inputs from Al Jazeera)

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