RIYADH | SAUDI ARABIA – This year’s Hajj which has been scaled back dramatically to include only around 1,000 pilgrims due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, will begin on July 29, authorities said Monday.
Some 2.5 million people from all over the world usually participate in the ritual that takes place over several days, centered on the holy city of Makkah.
This year’s Hajj will be held under strict hygiene protocols, with access limited to pilgrims under 65 year old and without any chronic illnesses. Makkah will be cordoned off by security and only people with relevant permits will be allowed entry.
‘The stand of pilgrims on Mount Arafat, the peak of the Hajj ritual, falls on Thursday’, the official Saudi Press Agency cited the Supreme Court as saying, indicating that Wednesday would be the first day of the annual event.
Chief of police operations in the Makkah region, Eid al-Otaibi said that 32 checkpoints have been set up on the outskirts of Makkah and the holy sites as part of the Hajj security plan. Patrols will also be deployed to crack down on violators and enforces the health precautions.
Last month, Saudi Arabia announced it would hold a ‘very limited’ Hajj. Officials said the pilgrimage would be restricted to 1,000 people already present in the Kingdom, 70 percent of the foreigners and the rest Saudis.
The ritual will be restricted to medical professionals and security personal who have recovered from the virus, the Hajj and Umrah Ministry said.
The pilgrims will be tested for coronavirus before arriving in Makkah and are required to quarantine at home after the ritual, according to health officials.