Saudi Arabia has established a number of rules and restrictions for pilgrims during the upcoming Hajj, which this year will be held from July 28 to August 2.
According to the Asharq Al-Awsat Newspaper, these measures were taken by the kingdom authorities in order to maintain sanitary safety and reduce the risk of mass spread of the new coronavirus among the faithful during the great pilgrimage rituals.
The most important limitation is related to performing the key ritual of the Hajj to the holy places of Islam, that is, moving around the Kaaba seven times (Tavaf ), during which the pilgrims try to kiss the sacred stone or at least touch it.
After circling, the pilgrims come to the place of entrance to the Kaaba, press their whole bodies against it and make prayers, asking for mercy and forgiveness for transgressions. According to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, “touching and kissing the Kaaba is prohibited”. Safety barriers will be erected for security purposes so that no one can get close to the stone.
In addition, the main rituals, including such an important rite as stoning the Shaitan, can be performed only in small groups of not more than 50 people, and buses will transport pilgrims with 50% seats empty. Everyone should be masked and maintain a social distance. Believers will be regularly checked for temperature.
Certain measures have been taken with regard to food and drinking water: they will be served only in individual sealed containers. And water from the sacred Well of Zamzam, located at a depth of 30 meters under the area of the Great (Sacred) Mosque in Mecca, will be provided only in disposable bottles. Ablution in Zamzam and drinking its water is considered an important element of pilgrimage.
People will be accommodated in a tent camp in the Muzdalifah Valley and in the Arafat Hill area at the rate of 10 people for every 50 square meters, while a distance between the tents must be at least 1.5 meters.
On Monday, Saudi Arabia opened the registration for those wishing to perform the Hajj this year on a special website that will be active until Friday. After that, residents from among non-citizens of the country will be selected from the database, who will be able to go on a pilgrimage this year. This does not apply to the Saudi nationals.
At the same time, when selecting candidates, priority will be given to people aged 20 to 50 years without chronic diseases, who did not have a new coronavirus (must be confirmed by a laboratory examination certificate), have not previously performed the hajj, and are ready to be quarantined for the established period. According to the Ministry, the share of residents from among those living in the territory of Saudi Arabia on a permanent basis will be 70% against 30% of the Saudi nationals.
Saudi Arabia still ranks first among the Arab countries in the number of coronavirus infected, the number of new cases of the disease does not cease to increase, reaching as of Tuesday more than 217 thousand since the pandemic outbreak. More than 154 thousand people recovered, and the number of deaths totaled 2017.