Saudi Arabia issues protocols to ensure safety of pilgrims during Hajj

The Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) has set safety protocols amid the ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic. The protocols affects all workers and pilgrims. (Photo/Supplied)
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Updated 06 July 2020

Saudi Arabia issues protocols to ensure safety of pilgrims during Hajj

  • All rituals will be performed as per the rules set by the authorities to control the spread of coronavirus

JEDDAH: With coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases still surging throughout the world, Saudi Arabia has limited the number of pilgrims to performing this year’s Hajj and put several protocols in place.

The Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) has set the protocols to decrease the infection rate and ensure pilgrims’ safety. Saudi Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah announced earlier last month that the number of pilgrims would be limited this year.
Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Benten said that the decision to limit numbers “aims to protect people above everything else, which has been the priority of the Kingdom since the start of the pandemic.”
The long list of protocols affects all workers and pilgrims this year. From July 19, authorities will prohibit all entry into Mina, Muzdalifa, and Arafat without permits.
Guides and awareness signs must be placed in all areas and written in various languages that include COVID-19 infection warnings, hand washing protocols, sneezing and coughing etiquette, and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Organizers must distribute pilgrims in the Tawaf area around the Kaaba to decrease overcrowding while adhering to a 1.5-meter distance between each person. Organizers at the Holy Mosque must ensure that pilgrims are distributed on all floors of the Saee (ritual walking between Safa and Marwa) and place track lines to maintain social distancing while ensuring that the grounds around the Kaaba and Saee are sanitized by cleaning crews before and after each group performing Tawaf.
Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited, barriers will be set to prevent reaching the sites and the mosque’s carpets are to be removed to allow pilgrims to use their personal prayer rugs instead to decrease the chances of the spread of any infection.
Food will not be permitted in the mosque nor will it be allowed on the mosque’s grounds.
All personnel, guides, pilgrims and workers’ temperatures must be checked throughout the pilgrimage; protective face masks and gear must be worn at all times. Floor signs must be placed in locations such as baggage claim areas, restaurants and bus stops with a meter-and-a-half distance between each floor sign.
Concerning the protocols for Arafat and Muzdalifa, pilgrims must adhere to social distancing at all times, wear masks and organizers must ensure that no more than 10 pilgrims are located in a tent of 50 square meters, ensuring a 1.5-meter distance between each pilgrim. Pilgrims must adhere to designated tracks and organizers must be vigilant and ensure that all pilgrims stay in line while adhering to social distancing rules.
Organizers must assemble no more than 50 pilgrims heading to the Jamarat (stone pillars) per group and disinfected and packaged pebbles will be provided for pilgrims as well.


• Organizers must distribute pilgrims in the Tawaf area around the Kaaba to decrease overcrowding.

• Food will not be permitted in the mosque nor will it be allowed on the mosque’s grounds.

• Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited. Organizers must assemble no more than 50 pilgrims heading to the Jamarat (stone pillars) per group.

Those suspected of carrying the infection will be allowed to perform their pilgrimage only after being evaluated and cleared by a physician. They will be allocated into specific groups of suspected cases, placed in designated accommodation, and in buses with designated tracks to accommodate their condition.
Weqaya’s protocols also advised that no personnel are allowed to work if they contract flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose, a sore throat, or sudden loss of the sense of smell or taste) until symptoms disappear and are cleared by a physician.
Disinfecting and sanitization rounds must be scheduled and organized to ensure that surfaces such as door handles and tables in reception areas, public seating areas, and waiting areas are cleaned around the clock.
Sanitizers must be placed next to ATMs, touch-screen guides, and vending machines while all printed magazines and newspapers must be removed to decrease the possibility of transmission.
Workers at pilgrims’ accommodation must always wear face masks. Guests must wear masks when leaving their rooms and workers must disinfect and sanitize all luggage on arrival.
Weqaya also laid out protocols to decrease the rate of transmission at restaurants and rest stops. Water coolers must be discontinued in the Grand Mosque and holy sites and individual bottled Zamzam water will be available and distributed to pilgrims at all times.
Individual pre-packaged meals and food will be served to pilgrims. Workers distributing the meals must follow strict protocols that include washing hands for no less than 40 seconds using soap and water throughout their shifts and where they are not able to access these, alcohol-based sanitizers must be used instead for no less than 20 seconds.


Cyberattacks hit 95% of Saudi businesses last year, says study

Updated 16 min 58 sec ago

Cyberattacks hit 95% of Saudi businesses last year, says study

  • Data, money and reputation at risk

RIYADH: Cyberattacks hit 95 percent of businesses in the Kingdom last year, according to a new survey, as a cybersecurity expert warned that there was a lack of awareness in Saudi Arabia about the seriousness of such attacks and what people could do to protect themselves.

More than 800 global business and cybersecurity leaders took part in the survey, including 49 from the Kingdom. It was commissioned by a cybersecurity firm, Tenable Inc., and carried out by Forrester Consulting.

According to the study, 85 percent of Saudi survey participants had witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of business-impacting attacks in the past two years. The effects of the attacks were serious, with organizations reporting loss of customer or employee data, ransomware payments and financial loss or theft. Around 61 percent of security leaders in Saudi Arabia said the cyberattacks also involved operational technology.

Cybersecurity expert Abdullah Al-Jaber said the primary reason that most of these cyberattacks were successful in the region was due to a lack of awareness about the gravity of these incidents and the ways that people could protect themselves against them.

“A lot of cybersecurity attacks happen because of a lack of cybersecurity awareness in a company’s employees,” he told Arab News. “Many attacks start from phishing campaigns and lead to major incidents, similar to the attack that happened recently on Twitter,” he said, referring to a Bitcoin hacking scheme that happened on the social media platform last month.

Al Jaber recommended educating employees about proper internet security, keeping work and personal internet browsing and email access on separate devices if possible, and avoiding unsafe behavior such as pirating music, movies, and TV shows.

“Improving cybersecurity awareness to employees is key for companies to make sure they don't open any malicious links or files that might lead to an incident. Also, understanding the environment and which systems are exposed to the Internet and making sure those systems are hardened and protected. The National Cybersecurity Authority (NCA) has published frameworks for organizations to follow, which help many organizations in improving their cybersecurity maturity,” he added.

He also recommended choosing complex passwords for email access and enabling two-factor authentication protocols whenever possible for added security.

The Tenable poll showed that fewer than 50 percent of the security leaders who took part said they are framing cybersecurity threats within the context of a specific business risk. For example, although 96 percent of respondents had developed response strategies to the COVID-19 pandemic, 75 percent of business and security leaders said their response strategies were only “somewhat” aligned.

Al-Jaber warned that these attacks could be dangerous for many reasons and not only because of the financial impact they could have on companies, as many factors came into play in terms of phishing scams.

“Some of the impact caused by cybersecurity attacks are the loss of sensitive information such as customer or employee personal identifiable information, financial loss, and even to the company’s reputation. A company that is known for being more vulnerable to cyberattacks might have less of a value on the stock market or to potential investors,” he said.

A royal decree requires all organizations to improve cybersecurity standards and procedures to protect their networks, systems and electronic data, and commit to the adoption of policies, frameworks, standards, controls and guidelines issued by the NCA.