MAKKAH: Sixteen people have been caught and fined SR10,000 ($2,666) each in the past week for violating a ban on entry into the holy sites, according to the Saudi Public Security spokesman.
Hajj pilgrims are to self-quarantine to ensure their compliance with confinement before heading to the holy sites, the Saudi Press Agency reported, as part of tough new rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Saudi authorities are severely restricting pilgrim numbers this year, as well as imposing health protocols such as social distancing, to ensure that the Hajj can be performed safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Expats living in the Kingdom have been chosen to perform this year’s Hajj and represent 70 percent of the 2020 pilgrim cohort.
The Kingdom’s deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Abdel Fattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, said that pilgrims would have to adhere to “house confinement” before they headed to the holy sites, and to abide by institutional confinement from July 25-29 (4-8 of Dhu Al-Hijjah) in Makkah.
He insisted that there was no differentiation in the selection process, except in terms of the health standards set by authorities, and that the process had been done through an electronic portal.
The ministry had begun implementing its plans to organize this year’s Hajj season early because of the pandemic, he added, and all necessary measures had been adopted so that the rites of Islam’s fifth pillar could be performed safely.
Saudi Arabia had asked for patience while Hajj preparations were finalized and mechanisms were put in place for pilgrims and those serving them in terms of protecting them from potential infection.
“Health determinants are the basis for selecting pilgrims residing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and there will be no exceptions to anyone during this year’s Hajj season,” said the minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammed Salih Bentin.
He said that the selection process was carried out in complete transparency and that polymerase chain reaction tests were carried out on each pilgrim selected to provide a clear bill of health.
The minister added that no government officials or servicemen would be allowed to perform this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.