Saudi King during his address on the eve of Eid Al Adha. Image Credit: SPA

Cairo: Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz has said that his country has applied a digital system aimed to depend more on technology and reduce human engagement in organising the current Muslim Hajj pilgrimage with the aim of protecting pilgrims’ health.

“In view of the global pandemic, its continued mutation and out of our keenness to protect safety of the pilgrims as well as to contribute to limiting this epidemic, the kingdom has taken a set of organisational and preventive measures in this year’s Hajj season in line with the world health regulations and standards,” the monarch said in a video address marking the start of Eid Al Adha.

Around 60,000 Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia representing 150 countries are currently performing the Hajj, curtailed for the second year in a row due to COVID-19.

Eligible pilgrims must be vaccinated against COVID-19, free of chronic diseases and aged between 18 to 65 years.

Saudi authorities have also deployed robots to serve the holy Zamzam water to pilgrims in the Grand Mosque in Mecca and introduced smart card bracelets offering several services including the pilgrim’s personal, medical and residential information.

In his address, King Salman said that the Muslim countries have shown solidarity with Saudi Arabia for “success of this year’s Hajj season” by supporting the kingdom’s measures to protect pilgrims and contain the spread of the virus.

Herd immunity

He added that his country has been keen to ensure that the resident Muslims allowed to perform this year’s Hajj represent all Islamic countries.

Citing authorities’ efforts to attain herd immunity against COVID-19, the king said that over 22 million doses of vaccines have been administered to Saudis and foreign residences since the country initiated mass vaccinations against the virus in December.

“This has helped increase the operational capacity of the two holy mosques [in Mecca and Medina] and allowing the worshippers to carry out rituals in a health and safe environment,” he said.

The king praised the faithful for abiding by precautions against the virus in the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque.

According to him, over 17 million people, who have benefited from the anti-virus measures, have been able so far to perform Umrah or lesser pilgrimage and pray in the two holy mosques.

Last October, Saudi Arabia resumed Umrah after a suspension of around seven months due to the global coronavirus pandemic.