Saudi Arabia: Hajj 2020 to be held with limited number of pilgrims

Saudi Arabia: Hajj 2020 to be held with limited number of pilgrims
Pilgrims arrive in Mina during Hajj in 2019. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 June 2020

Saudi Arabia: Hajj 2020 to be held with limited number of pilgrims

Saudi Arabia: Hajj 2020 to be held with limited number of pilgrims
  • Decision taken due to the ongoing threat from the coronavirus pandemic
  • Pilgrims will come from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s ministers of Hajj and Heath have assured the safety of pilgrims during Hajj 2020 – announcing guidelines including age restrictions, social distancing measures among others at a press conference held on Tuesday.

Saudi Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten said the plan for this year’s pilgrimage has been outlined with the Ministry of Health, in accordance with coronavirus precautionary measures.

Among the general guidelines announced during the press conference is limiting the pilgrimage to residents and citizens under 65 years old, as well as mandatory coronavirus testing and quarantine.

Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said the ministry has prepared a hospital in case of emergencies during the pilgrimage.

The number of pilgrims to be allowed to perform Hajj has not yet been finalized, Benten said.

Earlier on Monday, the Saudi government announced Hajj will go ahead next month but with a “very limited” number of pilgrims allowed to take part.

The decision was taken due to the ongoing threat from the coronavirus pandemic and to preserve “global public health,” the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said.

Pilgrims taking part will be from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia.

About 2.5 million pilgrims performed Hajj last year but the ongoing scale and spread of COVID-19 worldwide means people will not be able to travel to the Kingdom to take part. 

The ministry said the decision had been made “in light of continuation of the pandemic and the risks of Coronavirus spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings.”

The statement said: “A very limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform it.




Pilgrims travel to Mount Arafat on the second day of Hajj last year. (Arab News/ Ali Khamg)

“This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols.” 

Last year, more than 1.8 million pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia from abroad to take part. The Hajj ministry said this year the risk of transmitting the disease between countries and the increase in infections globally meant the risk was too high.

The ministry said Saudi Arabia’s top priority is to always enable Muslim pilgrims can  perform Hajj and Umrah safely and securely.

The Council of Senior Scholars said on Monday it supported what the Kingdom’s decision to limit the number of pilgrims in order to preserve their health and safety.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Minister of Awqaf, Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, said that in light of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, his country also supports the Kingdom’s decision to limit the number of pilgrims, based on nationalities as well.


Fraudsters up their game, posing as bank officials on the phone in Saudi Arabia

Fraudsters up their game, posing as bank officials on the phone in Saudi Arabia
Vishing that occurs during a telephone call aims to provoke fear in the victim so that customers will be more susceptible to giving out personal, financial, or security details. (shutterstock)
Updated 18 January 2021

Fraudsters up their game, posing as bank officials on the phone in Saudi Arabia

Fraudsters up their game, posing as bank officials on the phone in Saudi Arabia
  • The Saudi Central Bank has warned bank customers, both citizens and expatriates, not to fall victim to financial frauds being perpetrated by scammers

JEDDAH: Fraudsters have developed a new scam, contacting residents in Saudi Arabia and pretending to be bank staffers requesting customer details.
A number of Arab News staff have received such calls in recent weeks. One caller spoke Urdu while two other callers posing as senior officials from the headquarters of the bank spoke in English and Arabic with a local accent.
They used phone numbers that appeared to be local numbers but upon calling back, the lines failed to connect.
The racketeers collect phone numbers of customers and ring them up, saying that their bank account or ATM card requires immediate updating. The scammers use the information provided to gain access to their bank accounts.
Speaking to Arab News, Talat Zaki Hafiz, secretary-general of the Media and Banking Awareness Committee of Saudi banks, said: “Saudi banks represented by the Media and Banking Awareness Committee have repeatedly warned bank customers not to react to stray phone calls of any kind coming from unknown sources that ask to update their banking record or personal information.” He further confirmed that banks do not request such information through phone calls or SMS messages.
Mohammed Khurram Khan, a professor of cybersecurity at the King Saud University in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Phishing, an online scam which targets users through emails where individuals are encouraged to click on a link that takes them to fraudulent sites, was troubling people. Now it’s a different kind of scam known as ‘vishing,’ over-the-phone phishing, where scammers persuade users to share their banking information by impersonating a bank official.”

HIGHLIGHT

The racketeers collect phone numbers of customers and ring them up, saying that their bank account or ATM card requires immediate updating. The scammers use the information provided to gain access to their bank accounts.

Vishing that occurs during a telephone call aims to provoke fear in the victim so that customers will be more susceptible to giving out personal, financial, or security details.
Sharing his experience Zafar Hasan, an e-learning consultant in Riyadh, said: “I received a call from someone on an unknown mobile number who introduced himself as a bank employee and told me that my ATM card was going to be blocked. It required an immediate update so I should give my Iqama number (residence permit number) and sixteen-digit ATM card number. I felt something was fishy, so I told him that I would go personally to the bank to update the card.”
The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) has warned bank customers, both citizens and expatriates, not to fall victim to financial frauds being perpetrated by scammers.
SAMA called on bank customers to take information only from the official channels of the bodies regulating the Kingdom’s financial and investment sectors and inform the competent security authorities about such fraudulent attempts.