Authorities in Saudi Arabia are looking into a crowd control plan before partially opening the Grand Mosque in Makkah for Umrah and Tawaf.
The Saudi Gazette reports that allowing entry into 40 percent of the capacity of the Grand Mosque is a key aspect of the plan. The plan is to be implemented strictly in accordance with the precautionary measures and preventive coronavirus protocols. It includes possibly pre-registering the data and contact numbers of visitors to the Grand Mosque upon entry. There would also be designated doors for entering and exiting the Haram, to maintain social distancing.
Thermal cameras to measure the temperature of visitors at the entrances is another major feature of the plan. Any visitor registering a high temperature will be barred from entering, and specialists from the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health will then carry out the necessary screening to ascertain whether they are infected with the virus or not.
Awareness materials regarding pandemic precautions are also be distributed. Signboards are to be set up highlighting basic precautionary measures such as hand washing, using sanitizers, not shaking hands, and the etiquette for sneezing. Crowding will not be allowed. Wearing a mask will be made mandatory, with entry refused to those failing to comply.
The ground floor, as well as the first and second floors of the holy mosque will be used for tawaf (circumambulation). The elderly and people with special needs will be confined to using the second floor. Three tracks created using plastic barriers will ensure social distancing on the mataf, while the first and second floors will have two tracks each.
Meanwhile, the ground and first floor of the sa’ee area will be utilised for the ritual walking between Safa and Marwa. These will also have separate entrance and exit doors.
According to the Saudi Gazette, the plan emphasizes minimizing the entry points to Makkah from the early hours of the morning, especially on Friday. There will also be strict crowd control measures along the roads leading to the Grand Mosque. Further, the entire central Haram area will be closed to traffic, more so on Friday, with visitors encouraged to pray at their hotel to limit the numbers entering the Haram.
The plan also calls for obtaining a permit to visit the Grand Mosque by using the Tawakkalna application, so as to limit the number of visitors, and to prevent those residing outside Makkah from entering the city from 9am to 8pm, unless, ofcourse they are in possession of a permit.
Umm Muhammed Umar