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.
“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.