Saudi Arabia welcomed the first group of Hajj pilgrims on Friday. Upon their arrival the pilgrims went through a screening process at King Abdulaziz International Airport. The Hajjis were then transferred by bus to a designated hotel where they are to remain in isolation until the start of the Hajj.
Al Arabiyya reports that strict precautionary measures have been implemented at the hotel. These include each pilgrim residing in a separate room, providing hand sanitizers for each Hajji, and enforcing social distancing rules. Hajjis are to don a mask at all times.
Temperature checks were mandatory at the hotel entrance in Makkah. The hotel is near the meeting point which had been determined by the health ministry. From the first day of the Hajj, Hajjis are to gather there daily to be transported to the holy sites.
Hajjis were required to isolate at home for seven days prior to their arrival in Makkah. Those living close to Makkah are not required to stay at the hotel. However, they were also required to remain in isolation in their homes until the first day of the Hajj. Those who had been infected with the virus, but had recovered, have not been asked to quarantine. They will arrive in Makkah nearer to the first day of Hajj.
Those selected to perform the Hajj are all residents in Saudi Arabia, between 20 and 50 years old. Al Arabiyya reports that priority was given to non-Saudis who have not previously performed the Hajj pilgrimage. They were also required to not have any pre-existing health conditions.
Saudi nationals in healthcare or from the Kingdom’s security forces were also offered the opportunity to perform the Hajj this year. This was as a means of showing appreciation for their efforts in fighting the COVID-19 crisis in Saudi Arabia, according to al Arabiyya.
Meanwhile, touching or kissing the Holy Kaaba, will not be allowed during Hajj 2020. A physical distance of 1.5 metres between each pilgrim will be enforced during the rituals – including in congregational prayers and while performing tawaf or circumambulation.
Access to the holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah, and Mount Arafat will be restricted to only those with Hajj permits up until August 2.
Umm Muhammed Umar