A pilgrim at Hajj Image Credit: Wikimedia

Dubai: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that 70 per cent of this year’s pilgrims for the Hajj - which will take place from July 28 to August 2 - will be expatriate residents while the remaining 30 per cent are Saudis, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said on Monday.

The 30 per cent of Saudi pilgrims will be limited only to Saudi health practitioners and security men who recovered from COVID-19. They will be selected from a database of recovered security men, in recognition of their dedication and important role in protecting all community segments during the battle against the virus.

The announcement follows a royal decree issued by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz to ensure the safety of pilgrims and prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier, the ministry said that this year’s pilgrimage would be restricted to a very limited number of pilgrims and confined to Saudis and non-Saudi residents of all nationalities who are already residing in the country, so that it does not exceed 10,000 people.

The ministry has prepared exceptional plans to ensure a smooth and seamless Hajj season in compliance with the health protocols set by the Ministry of health.

“The Saudi government is keen to hold the Hajj rituals in compliance with the highest health standards precautionary measures for the safety of pilgrims,” the Hajj Ministry said in a statement.

The move aims to ensure the Hajj is safely performed while abiding by all preventive measures to protect pilgrims and adhere strictly to the teachings of Islam in preserving people’s health and safety.

Authorities issued a slew of mandatory guidelines and health protocols that pilgrims need to follow during the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Pilgrims will not be allowed to touch or kiss the Black Stone in the Kaaba where barriers will be placed to prevent them from getting closer to it.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has set a number of health conditions that a pilgrim should meet before applying:

• Applicants should do not suffer from any chronic diseases

• Applicants should provide a negative PCR test proving that they are free of coronavirus.

• Applicants should not have previously performed Hajj.

• Applicants should be between 20 and 50 years.

Those who meet the above should apply online through the ministry’s website www.localhaj.haj.gov.sa. The registration period will last for five days starting from Monday, July 6, until Friday, July 10.

Also all pilgrimage should sign a commitment to adhering to the quarantine period decided by the Ministry of Health before and after performing the rituals of Hajj.

While the pilgrimage will be performed by a limited number of pilgrims, Umrah will remain suspended until further notice.