With a heavy heart, the announcement has been made regarding Hajj during the period of this global pandemic. This year’s Hajj will be performed in the limited capacity of people with only 1,000 pilgrims, Saudi officials said amid a surge in coronavirus infections. Some 2.5 million people from all over the world usually participate in the ritual that takes place over several days, centered on the holy city of Makkah.
2020’s Hajj will be performed under strict hygiene protocols, with a limited number of pilgrims under 65 years old and without any chronic diseases.
“The stand of pilgrims on Mount Arafat, the peak of the Hajj ritual, falls on Thursday,” the official Saudi Press Agency cited the Supreme Court. Wednesday would be the first day of the annual Hajj event.
The Hajj timings are determined by the moon positioning, in accordance with the Islamic lunar calendar.
Last month, Saudi Arabia made it public that this time it would be a “very limited” Hajj, a decision taken after immense discussions with political and economic pressures as the country battles a surge in coronavirus infections.
The undesirable decision is made as some 253,349 cases are reported so far including 2,523 deaths — the highest toll among the Arab Gulf states.
Although Hajj officials said the Hajj would be held with access to 1,000 people already present in the kingdom, 70% of them foreigners and the rest Saudis, some press reports have said that 10,000 people may take part.
The ritual will be restricted to medical professionals and security personnel who have recovered from the virus, the Hajj ministry said.
The decision has prompted criticism of the kingdom’s management of pilgrimage angering Muslims although many accepted it was necessary due to the pandemic.