Saudi Arabia to enforce strict health measures for Hajj No pilgrims from outside the Kingdom, confirms Hajj minister
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH/RIYADH — Saudi Arabia will enforce several strict health measures and protocols for the upcoming Hajj pilgrimage in an effort to prevent the deadly coronavirus from spreading, Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said on Tuesday.
Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Muhammad Saleh Benten and Al-Rabiah were addressing a joint virtual press conference. Minister of Hajj expected that number of domestic pilgrims performing the pilgrimage this year will not be more than 10,000.
Benten also confirmed that no pilgrims from outside the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Hajj this year.
Dr. Al-Rabiah said pilgrims should be less than 65 years of age and not suffering from any chronic diseases.
The Hajj pilgrimage, which is one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, will this year only welcome a “limited number” of people from inside the Kingdom, authorities had said on Monday.
Every year, about 2.5 million pilgrims visit the holiest sites of Islam in Makkah and Madinah, which could make it a possible breeding ground for the disease.
To prevent COVID-19 from spreading among pilgrims, the health ministry, in collaboration with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, has developed the plan to ensure the safety of all visitors.
“We have worked with the Ministry of Health to develop preventative and precautionary measures and protocols that are needed to ensure a safe Hajj season,” Benten said.
Here are the protocols:
1. No more than 10,000 people will be allowed to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.
2. All pilgrims will be tested before they reach the holy sites.
3. Only those under the age of 65 will be allowed to perform Hajj this year.
4. All pilgrims will be asked to self-quarantine after they complete the Hajj rituals.
5. All workers and volunteers will be tested before the Hajj pilgrimage begins.
6. The health status of all pilgrims will be monitored daily.
7. A hospital has been prepared for any emergency that occurs during the pilgrimage.
JEDDAH: Hajj pilgrim numbers could be limited to less or more than 1,000 to protect public health in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Saudi authorities.
Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah told a press conference on Tuesday that compulsory isolation before and after the pilgrimage will also be enforced.
He said Saudi Arabia is capable of ensuring pilgrims’ safety this year.
“The health ministry has accumulated experience in the service of pilgrims, and thus has enough human and technical capacities to serve pilgrims and preserve their health,” he said.
He added that an integrated hospital at holy sites will be provided, along with a health center in Arafat in case of emergencies during Hajj.
Medical cadres will also accompany pilgrims throughout their journey.
Al-Rabiah said limiting the number of pilgrims this year is important.
“Only people residing in the Kingdom, who are under 65 years of age and who do not have chronic diseases will be allowed to perform Hajj this year. They will get tested before arriving to the holy sites and will be subject to self-isolation after performing Hajj,” he said.
He added that those serving pilgrims during Hajj will also be tested.
Meanwhile, many East Asian countries decided to cancel their delegations to this year’s Hajj before the Saudi decision to limit pilgrim numbers.
Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Bentin said: “We appreciate this decision as it aims to protect people above everything else, which was also the priority of the Kingdom since the start of the pandemic, where it canceled Umrah and has now decided to limit the number of Hajj pilgrims to people already residing in Saudi Arabia.”
He added that the decision to limit numbers to less or more than 1,000 “was taken based on the Kingdom’s principles and past experience in managing Hajj. The main aim is preserving the health and safety of pilgrims in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is a delicate process and we are working with experts at the health ministry, the interior ministry and other authorities to ensure a safe Hajj,” Bentin said.
He added that the Hajj ministry will cooperate with diplomatic missions in the Kingdom to determine the number of eligible non-Saudi residents.
Media coverage of this year’s Hajj will be in line with adopted health measures, he said.
Bentin said the Kingdom’s decision to limit Hajj pilgrims is based on the continuation of the coronavirus pandemic and the risks of it spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings. It also comes amid a push to protect global health security.
“We have been working alongside the health ministry to determine precautionary measures and protocols that need to be followed. Preserving human lives is our priority, therefore, special plans have been set in place for this year’s Hajj, including the self-isolation of pilgrims both before and after performing Hajj,” he said.
He added that there will be no exceptions made for pilgrims arriving from abroad.
“We are aware of the dangers of this virus. Countries around the world have closed their borders. Therefore, no exceptions will be made,” he said.
Space for each pilgrim 4 times larger than normal: Ministry official
The space allocated for each pilgrim for this year’s Hajj will be four times larger than the area allocated previously.
RIYADH — The space allocated for each pilgrim for this year’s Hajj will be four times larger than the area allocated previously, according to a senior Hajj official.
Speaking to Okaz/Saudi Gazette, Faten Bint Muhammad Hussein, advisor to Minister of Hajj and Umrah, said that this would be applied in the case of their accommodation or tents in Mina and Arafat.
Faten said the social distancing measures would enable the ministry officials and service providers in facilitating crowd control and in ensuring the health of pilgrims.
“The presence of a large number of pilgrims will inevitably make the transmission of infection to others easier.
“But such an eventuality could be averted due to the ministry’s decision to limit the number of pilgrims together with strict compliance with instructions of the Ministry of Health with regard to social distancing, at least two meters per person,” she said.
She emphasized that the new directive shows the Kingdom’s keenness on the performance of the ritual of Hajj in a way that ensures the safety and security of all.
Faten said the decision to hold Hajj, with a limited number of pilgrims, is a correct and wise step in the right direction.
“The decision came after an in-depth study by the National Crises and Disasters Control Center at the Ministry of Health, which has a very important role in analyzing the indicators that support decision-makers in the Kingdom and that the ministry was in communication with the World Health Organization,” she said.
Faten pointed out that the ministry has one of the best electronic platforms with the highest level of technological connectivity among all the agencies involved in providing services to pilgrims and their families, even in issuing Hajj permits.
The platforms will help choose the available Hajj services, including hospitality program, economic program 1 and economic program 2, and each program has special rates that are affordable for all segments of the society.
Saudi Arabia reports 3,123 new COVID-19 cases, 41 deaths
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — With 3,123 new coronavirus cases reported on Wednesday, the overall number of confirmed infections in Saudi Arabia reached 167,267. Further, the health ministry reported 41 COVID-19 deaths taking the total fatalities to 1,387 since the Kingdom reported its first case on March 2.
There were 2,912 new recoveries, bringing the total to 112,797, the ministry said.Saudi authorities have so far conducted over 1 million tests for COVID-19.
Hufof with 343 infections topped the list of new cases reported during the last 24 hours. There were 286 cases in Dammam, 284 in Taif, 278 in Makkah, 225 in Riyadh, 214 in Jeddah, 186 in Mubarraz, 122 in Al-Khobar, 112 in Khamis Mushayt, 83 in Hail, 58 each in Buiraidah and Safwa, 48 in Najran, 45 in Abha, 41 in Dhahran, 37 in Jubail, 36 in Hafr Al-Batin, 33 in Bukheiriah, 29 in Qatif, 26 in Tabuk and 22 in Al-Baha.
The other new cases were detected in cities and provinces around the Kingdom, according to the ministry.
Health ministry officials have repeatedly urged all individuals, including children, who suffer from chronic illnesses to adhere to preventative measures.
Everyone in the Kingdom should follow precautionary measures, such as maintaining social distancing and wearing a mask at all times, the ministry reiterated on Wednesday.
WHO says decision based on risk assessment and analysis of various scenarios
Kingdom said it would limit number of pilgrims for different nationalities within the country
RIYADH: The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to greatly limit the number of Hajj pilgrims this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Kingdom said just 1,000 people, who are already living in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform the pilgrimage. Last year almost 2.5 million worshippers from around the world took part.
“As some countries start to reopen their societies and economies, the question about how to hold gatherings of large numbers of people safely have become increasingly important,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanum, said. “This is especially true of one of the world’s largest mass gatherings, the annual Hajj pilgrimage.”
Adhanum said the decision comes on the basis of risk assessment and an analysis of the various scenarios, in accordance with the organization’s guidelines to protect the safety of pilgrims and reduce the risk of infection.
Speaking n Geneva during the daily coronavirus press conference, he said the organization supported Saudi Arabia’s decision, adding that all that all countries must make difficult decisions to put public health at the forefront.
“We understand that it was not an easy decision to make and we also understand it is a major disappointment for many Muslims who are looking forward to making their pilgrimage this year,” he said. “This is another example of the hard choices that all countries must make to put health first.”
Haram Agency working out crowd control plan
40% of Haram’s capacity likely to be used for Umrah, Tawaf
MAKKAH – The Agency for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque under the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques is currently carrying out extensive studies about the entire aspects of its crowd control plan prior to partial opening of the Grand Mosque for performers of Umrah and Tawaf (circumambulation around the Holy Kaaba).
Okaz/Saudi Gazette has learned from well-informed sources that allowing entry into a maximum 40 percent of the capacity of the Grand Mosque is the major highlight of the plan.
The agency is represented by the General Department of Safety, Security and the Crowd Management at the Grand Mosque in working out the plan, which will be implemented strictly in line with the precautionary measures and preventive protocols to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The plan included exploring the possibility of pre-registration of data and contact numbers of the visitors of the Grand Mosque upon entry, and setting aside of doors for the entry and exit to avoid mingling of the faithful.
Another highlight of the plan is setting up of thermal cameras to measure the temperature of visitors at the entrances. Those with high temperatures will be prevented from entering and referred to specialists from the Ministry of Health to carry out necessary screening to know whether they are infected with the virus or not.
The faithful will be provided with educational materials to make aware of the pandemic precautions, in addition to setting up of signboards to make aware about precautionary measures such as hand washing, using sanitizers, not shaking hands, and etiquette for sneezing.
The social distancing measures will be ensured among all the faithful at all times and preventing the occurrence of crowding as well as not allowing any person who has symptoms or has been in contact with a confirmed case within the last 14 days. Wearing mask will be mandatory for entry to the holy mosque.
The plan also included allowing Umrah pilgrims to enter mataf (area for circumambulation) through King Fahd Gate and exit through the Al-Safa Door and Al-Nabi Bridge, while doors 89 and 94 will be set aside for the entry of those other than Umrah pilgrims to enter the ground floor of mataf for the purpose of performing tawaf and their exit shall be through Ajyad Door.
As for those non-Umrah pilgrims coming from the southern side and western side, they have to enter the first floor of mataf through the doors of Ajyad Flyover and Shubaika Flyover respectively while their exit shall be through escalators and Al-Safa Bridge.
King Fahd Staircases and Shubaika Escalator shall be set aside for the entry to the upper floor of the King Fahd Expansion area of the Grand Mosque. King Fahd Expansion and King Abdullah Expansion will be set aside for performing prayer while mataf will be exclusively for the prayer of Umrah pilgrims.
The ground, first and second floors of the holy mosque will be allotted to those performing tawaf, of which elderly people and people with special needs shall be allowed to use the second floor.
There will be three tracks with plastic barriers designated for tawaf to ensure social distancing with area for crowd control. The first and second floors of mataf will have two tracks each. The ground and first floors of masa (area for sai) will be designated for sai (ritual walking between Safa and Marwa).
The exit for those performing sai on the ground floor will be Marwa Door while the entry to the first floor of masa will be through Al-Nabi Bridge and Al-Safa Door and exit will be through Marwa Bridge and Al-Raquba Escalators.
The plan also stressed the importance of minimizing the entry points to Makkah city since early hours in the morning especially on Friday, and controlling the crowd along main roads and arteries leading to the Grand Mosque.
It also underlined the need to close the central Haram area, especially on Friday, and encourage hotel occupants to perform prayers inside their premises to limit the number of those who enter the holy mosque.
The plan also calls for obtaining permit to visit the Grand Mosque by applying on Tawakkalna application so as to limit the number of visitors and not to allow those residing outside the holy city to enter the city from 9.00 in the morning till 8.00 in the evening without a permit, especially on Friday.
RIYADH — Saudi Arabia on Wednesday saw a significant drop in the reported COVID-19 coronavirus cases. It recorded 3,402 new infections, along with 1,994 recoveries during the last 24 hours
After hovering around 3,300 cases for three consecutive days starting Saturday, there were 4,387 infections on Tuesday, according to the health ministry. Forty-nine new deaths were also reported.
With Wednesday's figures, as many as 194,225 cases have been reported in the Kingdom, along with 132,760 recoveries. Total deaths stand at 1,698, health ministry spokesman Dr. Muhammad Al-Abdel Ali was quoted by Saudi Press Agency (SPA) as saying. There are 59,767 active cases in the Kingdom, of which 2,272 are critical.
Riyadh had the highest number of infections over the past 24 hours with 401 new cases detected. Dammam had the second highest with 283. There was a steep drop in the cases in Hufof where only 229 infections were reported as against Tuesday's figure of 980 cases. Also, there were 198 cases in Makkah, 173 in Qatif, 172 each in Taif and Jeddah, 160 in Mubarraz, 154 in Madinah, 132 in Khamis Mushayt and 122 in Al-Khobar. The other cases were detected in cities and provinces across the country, the spokesman said.
Saudi corona cases above 4,000 again; 56 more die -Total cases 205,929 - recoveries 142,256 - death toll 1,858
RIYADH — Saudi Arabia recorded 4,128 new cases of the novel coronavirus, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the Kingdom to 205,929, the Ministry of Health said on Saturday.
Fifty-six people died of the coronavirus during the last 24 hours, bringing the virus-related death toll to 1,858, health ministry said.
The number of recoveries in the country climbed to 143,256 after 2,642 people recovered in the last 24 hours.
Riyadh reported the highest number of cases with 360 new confirmed infections. There were 315 infections in Dammam, 217 in Hufof, 214 in Qatif, 212 in Makkah, 204 in Taif, 201 in Khamis Mushayt, 175 in Mubarraz, 169 in Jeddah, 151 in Al-Khobar, 142 in Madinah, 140 in Dhahran, 125 in Abha, 107 in Al-Kharj, and 104 in Bisha, the ministry said.
The other cases were detected in cities and provinces across the Kingdom.
The health ministry on Thursday urged the public to adhere to precautionary measures to prevent the virus from spreading further.
If individuals must hold a gathering, whether it is for business purposes (conferences) or personal reasons (social gatherings, weddings, funerals), then all individuals must follow preventative measures at all times, Dr. Al-Abdel Ali said.
A maximum of 50 people are allowed to attend one gathering, he added.
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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