RIYADH – The few Muslim pilgrims who can make the pilgrimage to the holy Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina this year will have to wear a mask in connection with the corona pandemic.
Also, crowds should not be allowed to arise, and believers should be kept at least 1.5 meters apart. The rules apply not only to prayer and visits to holy places but also to restaurants and tents, according to the Saudi Center for Prevention and Control of Epidemics.
Last year, nearly 2.5 million pilgrims participated in the pilgrimage called hajj. Of these, 1.8 million were not from Saudi Arabia. Due to the outbreak of the highly contagious new coronavirus, the kingdom has drastically reduced the number of allowed pilgrims. A thousand believers, who must be under 65 years of age and are not allowed to come from abroad, are allowed to participate in the hajj, which starts at the end of this month.
Due to the coronavirus, even more, hygiene rules apply. For example, pilgrims are not allowed to touch the Black Stone in the Great Mosque of Mecca. Pilgrims should also not share personal utensils such as clothes, towels and mobile phones with others. The buses may only be half full.
With more than 209,000 registered infections and nearly 2,000 deaths, Saudi Arabia is one of the worst affected countries in the Middle East. On Sunday, the country reported 3,600 new identified infections. The government is nonetheless easing restrictive measures against the virus.