ONLY 1,000 pilgrims will be on Arafah
Unlike in the preceding year where some 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world berth on the cities of Mecca, Medina, the small valley of Muna and Arafah for Hajj an all important part of Islam- the Fifth pillar of Islam, this year’s shall hold with a “very limited” numbers without overseas pilgrims. Saudi Arabia says it will allow only about 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom to perform the Hajj. The Saudi Ministry of Hajj said the decision to curtail the pilgrimage was aimed at preserving global public health because of the risks associated with large gatherings, as the country is still battling with the coronavirus pandemic.
Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten said the government is still in the process of reviewing the number of overall pilgrims allowed, saying they could be “around 1,000, maybe less, maybe a little more, but would not be in tens or hundreds of thousands’’. Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said no one over the age of 65 or with chronic illnesses would be allowed to perform the Hajj. Access to Hajj sites at Muna, Muzadalifah and Arafat will be limited only to those with Hajj permits from July 19 until August 2, according to the state news agency.
Hajj has been cancelled in the past, but this is the first time in Saudi Arabia’s nearly 90-year history that foreign visitors have been barred from performing Hajj because of war and epidemics
Saudi announces health protocols for 2020 Hajj
Saudi Arabia’s Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Saudi CDC) has released a list of new health protocols for this year’s Hajj, for pilgrims and workers to follow. Touching the Kaaba will be banned and a social distancing space of one and a half meters will be enforced during mass prayers, circling the Kaaba and other rituals including inside the tents, in Muna. In addition, Pilgrims will be tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Mecca and will be required to remain in quarantine for 14 days after the conclusion of the pilgrimage at home after the rituals, according to the list published by official news agency SPA.
Similarly, pilgrims are banned from sharing personal items such as clothes, phones and towels. Buses transporting pilgrims from one holy site to another must be occupied at 50 percent capacity, as each pilgrim will be assigned the same seat throughout the Hajj. At restaurants, only prepackaged meals will be available as well as single-use bottles filled with water from the holy Zamzam well.
Pilgrims must wear face masks at all times, while workers will ensure no overcrowding or gatherings take place during the pilgrimage. Also, no one over the age of 65 or with chronic illnesses would be allowed to perform the Hajj; said the Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah. This year’s Hajj is opened only to domestic pilgrims. The number won’t be in tens or hundreds of thousands this year, he added. All areas of the Hajj, from lodgings to the holy mosque in Makkah will be regularly disinfected. Hand sanitizers will be made available throughout the pilgrimage and during resting periods. Strict health precautions will be adopted at every step of the holy journey.
Many people are shattered over Hajj bans
Shahadat Hossain Taslim, head of a group representing Bangladeshi Hajj travel agencies, said “many people are shattered” by the decision. He says “Unlike other countries, the majority of Bangladeshi pilgrims are elderly people, and they are vulnerable to COVID-19,” The response has been a mix of disappointment, relief and acceptance. Before the Saudi announcement, Indonesia, Malaysia, Senegal and Singapore had already barred their citizens from performing Hajj this year because of coronavirus concerns..
Pakistan, which usually sends nearly 180,000 pilgrims, said its diplomats in Saudi Arabia would represent the country during the pilgrimage this year. In neighbouring India, the minister for minority affairs said more than 200,000 people had applied to go on Hajj in 2020, and that they would receive a full refund of any money deposited for the pilgrimage. Mohamad Azmi Abdul Hamid, from the charity Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organizations, said Muslim nations should have been allowed to take a “collective decision”, rather then it being left to Riyadh.
160 nationalities will be on Arafat
As the Hajj commences, from Dhul Qadah 28 till the end of Dhu Al-Hijjah 12 1441 AH, 160 nationalities in the Kingdom have been screened electronically to select who will perform Hajj this year. Approved worshippers will consist of 70% non-Saudi residents and 30% Saudi citizens, the majority of whom are workers in the medical and military fields and others who have recovered from the disease. Pilgrims traveling from abroad will not be allowed to participate. 10,000 riyals fines ( N800,000: 00) will be issued to first offenders who without a permit trespass onto the hajj sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat and repeat offenders will be fined twice as much; says the Hajj Ministry has said. All who attend will be required to wear face masks, and social distancing will be enforced during the rites. Those selected were sorted in accordance with high standards that will ensure the safety and good health of pilgrims
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