JEDDAH: Saudi health chiefs on Friday urged pilgrims due to attend this year’s Hajj to ensure they had packed face masks, hand sanitizers, napkins, and personal-use prayer mats before setting out on their journey to Makkah.
The annual pilgrimage, which this year will be performed by a limited number of worshippers due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic restrictions, will start on July 17/18 and end on July 22/23.
Spokesman for the Hajj Security Forces Command, Brig. Gen. Sami Al-Shuwairekh, said authorities had arrested nine people for trying to access holy sites without a permit, a prerequisite for this year’s Hajj season, and all of them had been fined SR10,000 ($2,666).
He warned that security forces would continue until July 23 to take legal action against anyone attempting to reach the Grand Mosque in Makkah, its central surrounding area, or holy sites at Mina, Muzdalifah, and Arafat without permission.
Meanwhile, Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh, launched maintenance and operational projects costing more than SR31 million to coincide with the start of Hajj.
The initiatives will be implemented by the ministry to ensure the maintenance of high-quality services for pilgrims and application of health and safety measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Schemes also include an app project for smart devices to educate and guide pilgrims, a Wi-Fi service for Namira Mosque in Arafat Valley, the installation of 62 screens to broadcast awareness messages in different languages, and the provision of 30 interactive screens for the Islamic electronic library.
Saudi Arabia on Friday reported 13 more COVID-19-related deaths, taking the overall toll to 8,048.
There were 1,298 new cases, meaning that 507,423 people in the country had now contracted the disease. A total of 11,029 cases remained active, of which 1,400 patients were in critical condition.
In addition, the Saudi Ministry of Health said 1,428 patients had recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 488,346.
Meanwhile, 21,771,592 people in the country have to date received a jab against COVID-19, including 1,413,312 elderly.