In Saudi Arabia Hajj pilgrims have embarked on the first day of the rituals after having had to undergo self-isolation in a designated hotel amid strict precautionary measures implemented against the spread of the coronavirus.
Hajjis were transported to the Masjid ul Haram or Grand Mosque, by bus, early Wednesday morning to perform Tawaf al Qudum.
Al Arabiyya reports that one ‘health leader’ has been assigned to each group of 50 pilgrims to ensure safety measures. They are to ensure that Hajjis don a mask at all times, and that social distancing is maintained.
Saudi Press Agency reports that the ‘health leader’ is a qualified health practitioner who is responsible for carrying out visual screening, filling out follow-up precautionary forms inside the pilgrims’ bus, monitoring pilgrims’ commitment to precautionary measures, and reporting any suspected cases of the coronavirus, among his or her group of fifty Hajjis from the just one thousand pilgrims performing Hajj this year.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year Saudi Arabia has only allowed those foreigners already residing in the kingdom to perform Hajj. They too had to meet specific criteria to participate in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage, such as having no underlying health conditions, and not having previously performed the Hajj. Roughly thirty percent of this year Hajjis comprise of Saudi nationals, largely from the health and security sectors, as a means of appreciation shown by the Saudi government, for their service during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Hajjis are to meet daily in front of a hotel designated by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, from where they will be transported by bus to the city’s holy sites. According to Al Arabiyya each pilgrim has been assigned a seat for the entire duration of the pilgrimage.They are to travel to the usually packed tent city of Mina, where they will be accommodated at the Mina Towers.
Security services have erected a cordon around the main Hajj sites to ensure the safety of the pilgrims. Hefty fines, and even jail time will be imposed on anyone trying to attend the Hajj without a permit, as well as on those found to be transporting non-permit holders to the Hajj sites.
Umm Muhammed Umar