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Saudi Arabia opens Hajj registration for foreign residents within the Kingdom

Saudi Arabia has said it will allow only around 1,000 pilgrims already present in the kingdom to participate in this year's hajj. Hajj registrations have opened for foreign residents residing in the kingdom, estimated to be the bulk of the attendees. 30% of attendees will be locals, while 70% are foreign residents. It seems like this year's Hajj will be a toned down affair.

Saudi Arabia on Monday opened hajj registration for foreign residents in the kingdom, saying they will make up 70 percent of the pilgrims after it scaled-back the annual ritual due to coronavirus.

Saudi Arabia has said it will allow only around 1,000 pilgrims already present in the kingdom to participate in this year’s hajj, scheduled for the end of July, a far cry from the 2.5 million who attended the five-day pilgrimage last year.

Limiting and filtering of Hajj 2020 attendees

Foreign residents, aged between 20 and 65 who have no previous health ailments such as diabetes and heart conditions, are allowed to register on https://localhaj.haj.gov.sa., the hajj ministry said.

The registration process will be open until Friday, it added.

Saudi citizens will make up the remaining 30 percent of the pilgrims, with the ritual restricted to medical professionals and security personnel who have recovered from the virus, the ministry said.

“They will be selected through the database of those who have recovered from the virus,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The pilgrims will be tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Mecca and are required to quarantine at home after the ritual, according to health officials.

Last month, Saudi Arabia announced it would hold a “very limited” hajj, a decision fraught with political and economic peril as it battles a coronavirus surge.

Read more: Limited Hajj to be held this year due to coronavirus: Saudi state media

The decision to exclude pilgrims arriving from outside Saudi Arabia is a first in the kingdom’s modern history and has sparked disappointment among Muslims worldwide, although many accepted it was necessary due to the health risks involved.

Saudi Arabia has so far reported more than 213,000 coronavirus infections — the highest in the Gulf — and nearly 2,000 deaths.

Hajj minister ensures safety of annual pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia’s ministers of Hajj and Heath have assured the safety of pilgrims during Hajj 2020 – announcing guidelines including age restrictions, social distancing measures among others at a press conference held on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia announced health protocols to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in the 2020 Haj season, banning gatherings and meetings between pilgrims, the state news agency said on Monday.

Read more: Iranian boats shot by Saudi Arabia and forced to retreat

Saudi Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten said the plan for this year’s pilgrimage has been outlined with the Ministry of Health, in accordance with coronavirus precautionary measures.

Revised guidelines by Hajj minister

Pilgrims will be tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Mecca and will be required to quarantine at home after the ritual.

Wearing of face masks at all times will be mandatory for both pilgrims and organisers.

Touching or kissing the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, will be banned during the Hajj this year, and a physical distancing space of a metre and a half between each pilgrim during the rituals including mass prayers and while in the Kaaba circling area will be imposed, according to a statement by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

Read more: Economy to take a hit as Hajj curtailed for 2020 by Saudi Arabia

Congregational prayers are permitted, but worshippers are required to wear face masks and maintain physical distancing.

Also, access to holy sites at Mina, Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat will be limited to those with Hajj permits starting Sunday July 19 till August 2.

Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said the ministry has prepared a hospital in case of emergencies during the pilgrimage.

It will be mandatory for both pilgrims and organisers to wear face masks at all time during the annual Hajj processions.

Read more: All roads lead to Saudi Arabia as Turkey begins trial of Kashoggi murderers

This is the first time in Saudi Arabia’s nearly 90-year history that foreign visitors have been barred from performing Hajj. The Hajj has been cancelled because of war and past epidemics throughout history, but not since the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk

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