On Wednesday, Muslim pilgrims in Mecca begin a pilgrimage in exceptional circumstances and under unprecedented precautions surrounding the specter of the emerging Coronavirus, which continues to spread around the world, claiming hundreds of thousands of deaths.
About 10,000 residents participate in the rites that continue over five days, compared to the 2.5 million Muslims who attended last year, after a selection process carried out by the authorities, which some considered vague, as it witnessed the acceptance of requests and the refusal of other large numbers.
Hajj is one of the largest annual human gatherings in the world and a possible major focus for the spread of diseases, including the emerging corona virus, and its organization is usually a great logistical challenge, as millions of pilgrims flow from many countries to the crowded religious sites.
The emerging coronavirus has killed more than 654,000 people worldwide since the WHO office in China reported the outbreak at the end of December 2019, including more than 2,700 in Saudi Arabia, with about 270,000 infections recorded.
In Mecca, the pilgrims were provided with a set of tools and supplies, including medical and sterile Ihram, gravel pebbles, masks, carpets and parasols, according to the authorities ’“ Pilgrim’s Pilgrimage ”booklet, while Hajjaj stated that he was asked to put in place to determine their movements.
The pilgrims had to undergo a new test of Coronavirus before they arrived in Mecca, and they would also have to quarantine after the pilgrimage.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said it has set up several health facilities and mobile clinics and equipped ambulances to meet the needs of pilgrims who will be required to adhere to social separation.
On the eve of the start of the rituals, workers were seen Tuesday sterilizing the area around the Kaaba in the middle of the Grand Mosque, knowing that the authorities will prevent pilgrims from touching the building wrapped in a black cloth embroidered with gold.
The authorities initially announced that only about 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom would be allowed to perform the rituals, but local media published reports that the number of pilgrims amounted to about 10,000 pilgrims.
The percentage of non-Saudis residing in the Kingdom is determined to be 70 percent of the total pilgrims this year, and the proportion of Saudis is only 30 percent, who are “health practitioners and security men recovering from the emerging Corona virus.”
The foreign press is not authorized to cover the pilgrimage this year, which is usually a huge global media event, as the government seeks to tighten access to the holy city of Mecca and place strict health restrictions to prevent the virus from spreading during rites.