Saudi Arabia to enforce strict health measures for Hajj

JEDDAH/RIYADH — Saudi Arabia will enforce several strict health measures and protocols for the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage in an effort to prevent the deadly coronavirus from spreading, Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said on Tuesday.

Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Muhammad Saleh Benten and Al-Rabiah were addressing a joint virtual press conference. Minister of Hajj expected that number of domestic pilgrims performing the pilgrimage this year will not be more than 10,000.

Benten also confirmed that no pilgrims from outside the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Hajj this year. Dr. Al-Rabiah said pilgrims should be less than 65 years of age and not suffering from any chronic diseases.

The Hajj pilgrimage, which is one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, will this year only welcome a “limited number” of people from inside the Kingdom, authorities had said on Monday.

Every year, about 2.5 million pilgrims visit the holiest sites of Islam in Makkah and Madinah, which could make it a possible breeding ground for the disease.

To prevent COVID-19 from spreading among pilgrims, the health ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, has developed the plan to ensure the safety of all visitors.

“We have worked with the Ministry of Health to develop preventative and precautionary measures and protocols that are needed to ensure a safe Hajj season,” Benten said.

Here are the protocols:

1. No more than 10,000 people will be allowed to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.

2. All pilgrims will be tested before they reach the holy sites.

3. Only those under the age of 65 will be allowed to perform Hajj this year.

4. All pilgrims will be asked to self-quarantine after they complete the Hajj rituals.

5. All workers and volunteers will be tested before the Hajj pilgrimage begins.

6. The health status of all pilgrims will be monitored daily.

7. A hospital has been prepared for any emergency that occurs during the pilgrimage.

8. Social distancing measures will be enforced.

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