Mecca 1
Saudi authorities have said that no infectious diseases, including COVID-19, have been recorded among the pilgrims. Image Credit:

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has tightened measures for the final phase of a downsized Haj as the pilgrims continue to perform the stoning ritual near the holy city of Mecca.

After finishing the symbolic devil-stoning rite in the desert valley of Mina, the pilgrims Sunday return to the Grand Holy Mosque in Mecca where they will perform the farewell circumambulation of the Kaaba, marking the end of the five-day Haj.

“All preparations have been completed in the Holy Mosque to receive the pilgrims to perform the farewell encircling of the Kaaba,” said chief of the Special Force in the mosque, Maj. Gen. Yehia Bin Abdul Rahman.

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He told Saudi news agency SPA that strenuous efforts are under way to ensure success of this year’s Haj being held amid strict health precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The measures include allowing pilgrims to enter the Holy Mosque through certain doors and walk along designated corridors while keeping social distancing, he added.

“The Holy Mosque’s Special Force is cooperating with all official bodies to serve the guests of Allah to safely perform rituals in line with preventive health measures,” he added.

Saudi authorities have said that no infectious diseases, including COVID-19, have been recorded among the pilgrims.

This year’s Haj is being held with a very limited number, confined to Saudis and non-Saudis of all nationalities who are already residing in the kingdom.

The expatriates attending this year’s Haj had to meet certain health conditions. They should not be sufferers of any chronic diseases, and provide a negative PCR test proving that they are free of coronavirus. The applicants should not have previously performed the Haj, should be aged between 20 to 50 years, and sign a pledge to adhering to the quarantine period before and after performing the rituals.

The 30 per cent of Saudi pilgrims are limited to Saudi health practitioners and security men who have recovered from COVID-19. They were selected from among recovered patients in recognition of their role during the battle against the virus , provided they meet the related health criteria.

On July 19, Saudi Arabia started prohibiting people without permits from entering the holy places in Mecca, Muzdalifah, Arafat and Mina under a strict security plan.

The restriction remains in place until the end of Sunday.

More than 2 million Muslims usually perform the Haj, which is one of Islam’s five pillars. Muslims are expected to perform it at least once in their lives if they can afford it and are physically able.