MINA: No cases of COVID-19 have been detected during this year’s Hajj, Saudi health officials said as the pilgrimage got underway.
The coronavirus pandemic means this year’s Hajj has been reduced to 60,000 pilgrims from within the Kingdom.
Security, health and Hajj ministry officials told a press conference in Makkah on Sunday that precautionary measures against COVID-19 had been fully implemented.
Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly said no cases had yet been detected.
Health protocols and preventive measures, he said, could ensure a safe Hajj season.
The first phase of protocols began before pilgrims started arriving at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Saturday for the start of Hajj. “In this phase, we made sure that all the pilgrims had all received the necessary vaccines,” Al-Aly said.
The second phase included spreading awareness among pilgrims and introducing precautionary measures.
“Since the pilgrims are of different nationalities, the awareness campaign was launched through various languages,” he said.
Specialized health guides were accompanying pilgrims to check on them and give advice.
Interior Ministry spokesman Col. Talal Al-Shalhoub said security services and government entities were implementing the health precaution plans at the holy sites.
“Security men will continue doing their duties and prevent unauthorized people from entering the holy sites,” Al-Shalhoub said. “Those found violating the rules will be arrested and penalized.”
On Sunday, pilgrims worshipped and rested in Mina ahead of traveling to Arafat on Monday morning for the climax of the pilgrimage.
Hisham bin Saeed, the Hajj and Umrah Ministry spokesman, said strict precautions were in place for transporting pilgrims, including from Mina to Arafat between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Monday morning.
Some 71 camps had been prepared to accommodate the pilgrims.
Al-Aly said there were 13 hospitals in Makkah — three located at the holy sites, while the other 10 were in Makkah city.
“There is also a mobile field hospital which will accompany the pilgrims,” he said. “There are also some 50 clinics and medical centers in different parts of the holy sites.”
“Moreover, we have 180 ambulances that can provide intensive care services.”
He said the Saudi Red Crescent Authority were also providing “significant services” including capacity for almost 3,000 medical beds.
This year is the second year there has been a limited number of pilgrims selected from people living in Saudi Arabia.
In 2019, before the pandemic arrived, almost 2.5 million Muslims from around the world took part.