Saudi Arabia limits Hajj pilgrims to 1,000

Hajj pilgrim numbers could be limited to less or more than 1,000 to protect public health in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, health authorities in Saudi Arabia have said. (AFP/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 26 June 2020

Saudi Arabia limits Hajj pilgrims to 1,000

  • Compulsory isolation before and after the pilgrimage will also be enforced
  • Medical cadres will also accompany pilgrims throughout their journey

JEDDAH: Hajj pilgrim numbers could be limited to less or more than 1,000 to protect public health in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Saudi authorities.

Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah told a press conference on Tuesday that compulsory isolation before and after the pilgrimage will also be enforced.

He said Saudi Arabia is capable of ensuring pilgrims’ safety this year.

“The health ministry has accumulated experience in the service of pilgrims, and thus has enough human and technical capacities to serve pilgrims and preserve their health,” he said.

He added that an integrated hospital at holy sites will be provided, along with a health center in Arafat in case of emergencies during Hajj.

Medical cadres will also accompany pilgrims throughout their journey.

--------

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia announces Hajj with limited pilgrims from nationalities residing inside Kingdom

Arab countries welcome Saudi Arabia’s decision on Hajj 2020

--------

Al-Rabiah said limiting the number of pilgrims this year is important.

“Only people residing in the Kingdom, who are under 65 years of age and who do not have chronic diseases will be allowed to perform Hajj this year. They will get tested before arriving to the holy sites and will be subject to self-isolation after performing Hajj,” he said.

He added that those serving pilgrims during Hajj will also be tested.

Meanwhile, many East Asian countries decided to cancel their delegations to this year’s Hajj before the Saudi decision to limit pilgrim numbers.

Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Bentin said: “We appreciate this decision as it aims to protect people above everything else, which was also the priority of the Kingdom since the start of the pandemic, where it canceled Umrah and has now decided to limit the number of Hajj pilgrims to people already residing in Saudi Arabia.” 

He added that the decision to limit numbers to less or more than 1,000 “was taken based on the Kingdom’s principles and past experience in managing Hajj. The main aim is preserving the health and safety of pilgrims in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a delicate process and we are working with experts at the health ministry, the interior ministry and other authorities to ensure a safe Hajj,” Bentin said.

He added that the Hajj ministry will cooperate with diplomatic missions in the Kingdom to determine the number of eligible non-Saudi residents.

Media coverage of this year’s Hajj will be in line with adopted health measures, he said.

Bentin said the Kingdom’s decision to limit Hajj pilgrims is based on the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic and the risks of it spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings. It also comes amid a push to protect global health security.

“We have been working alongside the health ministry to determine precautionary measures and protocols that need to be followed. Preserving human lives is our priority, therefore, special plans have been set in place for this year’s Hajj, including the self-isolation of pilgrims both before and after performing Hajj,” he said.

He added that there will be no exceptions made for pilgrims arriving from abroad.

“We are aware of the dangers of this virus. Countries around the world have closed their borders. Therefore, no exceptions will be made,” he said.


Expat businessmen optimistic about life after COVID-19 lockdown

Updated 5 min 8 sec ago

Expat businessmen optimistic about life after COVID-19 lockdown

  • Many expat business owners have praised the Saudi government for its role in helping them survive the COVID-19 outbreak

JEDDAH: Expat business owners in Saudi Arabia hit by loss of sales during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown period have expressed hope for the future as trading gradually gets underway again.

Many foreign-run firms operating in the Kingdom have been facing uncertain times due to curfews and restrictions put in place throughout the Kingdom to stop the spread of the virus.

But with the easing of precautionary measures allowing the resumption of commercial activities, expat business proprietors are looking forward with optimism to life after lockdown.

According to the World Investment Report 2020, published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, investment had a key role to play in countering the long-term developmental impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on national economies.

Awais Misri, the Pakistani CEO of Ramsons Trading Co. in Jeddah, told Arab News: “Saudi Arabia has been more protected and insulated from the worst effects of the COVID-19 depression, so I see consumption rebounding at least initially and that’s because Saudi Arabia’s economy is generally robust.”

His company, which supplies hotels, caterers, restaurants, and cafes in Makkah and Madinah with food products, along with supermarkets, was heavily impacted by the lockdown but he was confident of bouncing back.

“People are tired of being at home, they want to go out and spend; hence, consumption will go up and possibly even higher than pre-COVID-19 levels, at least initially,” Misri added.

Many expat business owners have praised the Saudi government for its role in helping them survive the COVID-19 outbreak.

Mahmood Khan, from India, who has a clothing manufacturing business in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Fortunately, some retailers were able to sell online, which proved successful for many businesses. However, for companies like ours, we were closed for the past three months. It has affected our revenue significantly. Up to 70 percent in sales were lost.

“With the curfew lifted and tremendous efforts put in by the government to ensure health and safety, we are positive that we will come out of these trying times soon. We have already seen a surge in orders and deliveries for the end of the year,” he added. 

Another factory owner said the pandemic had forced production to be halted. Jeddah-based Pakistani-British clothing retailer Farhan Ashfaq said: “This, of course, impacted our workers and community.

“However, we applaud the way Saudi Arabia has fought against COVID-19 to protect its citizens and residents. The government ensured safety first and has opened up businesses so we can get back on our feet and flourish.”

Startups dealing with the aftermath of the unprecedented health crisis were also hopeful of being able to resume business as usual.

Iman Azmat, an Indian-Canadian fashion retailer based in Dammam, said: “This has been a very trying time for all startups, especially those that began their journey in 2019.

“However, with the curfew being lifted and as things go back to normal, we hope to achieve the aims we set out with in the near future. Many foreign investors are eyeing Saudi Arabia as the beacon of hope.”