Grand Mosque to remain closed to worshipers
on Arafat Day and Eid Al-Adha
JEDDAH — Maj. Gen. Mohammed Bin Wasl Al-Ahmadi, assistant commander of the Hajj security forces for the Grand Mosque and its premises, said on Tuesday that the Grand Mosque will remain closed to worshipers on Arafat Day and Eid Al-Adha as part of the precautionary measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic.
“The suspension of prayers in the Grand Mosque and its outer premises will continue. We invite people of Makkah to break their fast on the Day of Arafat in their homes,” he added.
Maj. Gen. Al-Ahmadi made the remarks during a press briefing in which he announced the completion of the first stage of planning for the annual religious gathering. He said that the security plan for this year’s Hajj focuses on organizational, security, humanitarian and health aspects.
“We have mainly focused on the health aspect this year due to the exceptional situation. The remaining stages will be implemented in the coming days,” said Maj. Gen. Al-Ahmadi.
He said that a new mechanism has been put in place to control pilgrims’ entry and exit to the Grand Mosque in order to ensure social distancing.
As part of the precautionary measures, pathways for circumambulation of the Holy Kaaba and Sa'ee (hastening between the hills of Safa and Marwah) have been defined, and those having official permission will be allowed to enter the Grand Mosque area, Maj. Gen. Al-Ahmadi added
A total of 1,968 newly confirmed cases were conducted on Sunday, raising the number of confirmed cases in the Kingdom to 266,941
JEDDAH: Field hospitals, medical staff and clinics are set up and ready at the holy sites ahead of the 2020 Hajj pilgrimage.
The Ministry of Health’s Hajj plan to ensure the health and safety of pilgrims attending this year’s annual pilgrimage include a hospital in Mina, six ambulances, three clinics at pilgrim accommodations, a field hospital and a mobile hospital as well as a clinic in Arafat.
Medical and technical cadres are also preparing to ensure the safety of visitors while performing their pilgrimage, intensifying preparations to deal with heat-related ailments such as heat strokes. Misting systems are distributed in all holy sites and have been proven to decrease temperatures, lowering the chances of pilgrims suffering heat stroke.
Pilgrims arriving at hotels in Makkah received a special kit provided by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah. It contained a face mask, Hajj ihram garments, a prayer rug, ritual stones and hygiene items such as shaving instruments, personal-care tools and a guidebook for the pilgrimage.
According to Major General Mohammed bin Wasl Al-Ahmadi, assistant commander of the Hajj Security Forces for the Grand Mosque and its premises Security, the Hajj security plan is based on four pillars: Organization, security, humanitarianism and health care.
The Hajj security plan is based on four pillars: Organization, security, humanitarianism and health care.
The Hajj Security Forces had put in place a mechanism for entrance and exit from and to the Grand Mosque during the pilgrimage, he said. A passage for pilgrims extended from the southern and western premises of the mosque, as well as special passages around the circumambulation and Saee areas.
Meanwhile, more than three million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests have been conducted in the Kingdom to detect infected residents.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health announced on Sunday that 57,216 PCR tests had been conducted in the past 24 hours, raising the number of tests conducted in the Kingdom so far to 3,056,956.
A total of 1,968 newly confirmed cases were conducted on Sunday, raising the number of confirmed cases in the Kingdom to 266,941. There are currently 43,885 active cases, 2,120 of whom are in critical care units. No new patients have been reportedly admitted to ICUs in the past 24 hours.
Al-Hofuf recorded the highest number with 208 confirmed cases, followed by Taif with 195 and Riyadh with 126.
A total of 2,541 new recoveries were reported, raising the number of recoveries in Saudi Arabia to 220,323, and the Kingdom’s recovery rate to 82.5 percent.
Thirty new deaths were recorded, raising the number of fatalities to 2,733.
Makkah Municipality ready for Hajj season
Previous July 27
JEDDAH: Makkah Municipality announced the readiness of its operational plan for this year’s Hajj in line with precautionary measures to protect pilgrims from contracting COVID-19.
The municipality has recruited over 18,490 workers to implement its plan for the Hajj season this year to provide the best services to the pilgrims.
There are 28 new and fully equipped service centers spread across the holy sites in addition to sub-municipalities.
More than 13,500 cleaners with the latest equipment will work for 24 hours across the city and holy sites, particularly in crowded places and on peak days. There are 87,900 compact garbage containers placed underground in the Mina area.
There will be a number of teams and committees to monitor markets, food stores, and restaurants around the clock.
These public health activities will target grocers, restaurants, cafeterias, barber salons, laundries, bakeries, and other services.
These teams will test food on an ongoing basis and destroy damaged materials, manage prices, supervise water sanitization, and monitor slaughterhouses as they have the highest operational capacities during the season.
They will carry out field tours to detect any epidemic cases between animals and to ensure the safety of meat provided to people.
Makkah Municipality will also increase its supervision and maintenance work on electricity networks, roads, tunnels, bridges, toilets, and torrent drainage networks in addition to allocating an emergency unit and support teams to deal with situations such as fire and heavy rain.
Makkah Mayor Mohammed Abdullah Al-Quwaihis said that the plan was based on Saudi Arabia’s decision to limit this year’s Hajj to people already living in the Kingdom.
He said that the municipality had mobilized its energy, human and material resources to achieve a successful and safe Hajj season, with support from teams in other sectors and municipalities, as well as from public security and scout groups.
Al-Quwaihis added that the municipality was doing its best to ensure the provision of all services for pilgrims so they could perform their Hajj rituals in ease, comfort, and safety under the follow-up and guidance of Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, his deputy Prince Badr bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, and the minister of municipal and rural affairs, Majid Al-Hogail.
The General Directorate of Civil Defense has started an awareness campaign to educate pilgrims and workers on ways to stay safe in case of an emergency.
Messages are delivered to pilgrims through SMS as well as guide boards, screens, and televisions across holy sites and inside pilgrim accommodation.
Violators fined SR160,000 for illegally entering holy sites
Saudi Gazette report
MAKKAH — Sixteen people have been caught and fined SR10,000 ($2,666) each over the past week for illegally trying to enter the holy sites, a Saudi Public Security spokesman was quoted by Saudi Press Agency (SPA) as saying.
Hajj pilgrims are obliged to self-quarantine before heading to the holy sites as part of new rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Authorities have severely restricted pilgrim numbers this year, as well as imposed health protocols such as social distancing, to ensure that the Hajj can be performed safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Interior Ministry has barred the entry of people to the holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat without permits from Dul Qadah 28 (July 18) to Dul Hijjah 12. The penalty will be doubled with the repetition of the violation.
Authorities called on all citizens and residents to abide by the instructions regarding Hajj season this year. Only those expatriates between the ages of 20 and 50 who are not suffering from any chronic diseases were entitled to apply for the pilgrimage.
Around 2.5 million foreign and domestic pilgrims had performed Hajj last year.
Saudi Hajj coronavirus curbs mean 'no work, no salary, nothing'
By Faarea Masud
Business reporter, BBC World Service
28 July 2020
With his head in his hands, Sajjad Malik sounds dejected. The taxi booking office he manages near Mecca's iconic Grand Mosque, the Masjid al-Haram, is empty. "There's no work, no salary, nothing," he says.
"Usually these two or three months before the Hajj (annual pilgrimage) me and the drivers make enough money to last for the rest of the year. But now nothing."
One of his drivers, Samiur Rahman, part of Saudi Arabia's largely foreign private workers, sends the office status updates from the roads around the popular Mecca clock tower. The sea of pilgrims is missing - they usually line the streets, dressed in white, with umbrellas to protect themselves from the intense heat.
Today the drivers' people-carriers are void of passengers and the city looks like a ghost town. Sajjad's drivers send him videos of the pigeons filling the roads instead.
"My drivers have no food and now they are sleeping four or five per room, in rooms designed for two," says Sajjad,
I ask him if he is receiving any government help. "No, no help, nothing. I have savings, which we are spending. But I have a lot of staff - more than 50 people were working with me - and they are suffering.
"One of my friends called me yesterday, saying, 'Please I need some work, I don't even care how much you want to pay me.' Believe me, the people are crying."
There are severe restrictions in place for this year's Hajj. Saudi Arabia has seen one of the biggest outbreaks of coronavirus in the Middle East and has said the two million pilgrims who normally come from around the world to Mecca will not be allowed to do so, in a bid to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Saudi Arabia bars international Hajj pilgrims
Travel firm faces struggle amid pilgrimage ban
Only those already living in the country will be allowed to perform the Hajj - taking the number down to just 1,000.
Pilgrims will not be able to freely drink from the holy Well of Zamzam, the water will all have to be bottled individually. And when it comes to the stoning of the three pillars in Mina, symbolising the rejection of the devil, the pebbles will have to be sterilised.
Away from Saudi Arabia itself, the huge influx of hungry pilgrims usually leads to lucrative import orders for livestock from neighbouring countries like Kenya - many of whose farmers now have herds of unsold cattle.
"The livestock subsector in Kenya is big. It's the mainstay for most of the households in the country, and a way of life for most farmers, especially during the Hajj period," says Patrick Kimani from the Kenya Livestock Producers Association.
On average, his members export 5,000 head of cattle to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, he says. "Farmers are now diversifying in to cold storage and local markets.
"We are concerned that it could decimate local cattle prices because all that extra produce could be dumped at cut price to local buyers for a quick sell."
Hajj dates back to the life of the Prophet Muhammad 1,400 years ago and there have been few limitations like this in its history.
The shock of a sudden withdrawal of an age-old source of income is also leaving many tour companies struggling.
Last year, Pakistan sent the most foreign pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. But today in Karachi, Shahzad Tajj says his firm, Cheap Hajj and Umrah Deals, is on the brink of collapse.
"Basically, business is zero. Even other travel-related activities weren't going on. Like flights, logistics, deliveries - so there was nothing to sell. We were not, frankly, totally prepared for this.
"We had to downsize our staff to minimal numbers. Time has now forced us to sell our assets, cars and some property, to just get through this stage at least. I help out some of my team with emergency funds, but that's all I can offer for now."
Restrictions this year are putting a large financial hole in the cities of Mecca and Medina, which receive billions of dollars worth of business from the travelling pilgrims.
"Although most of the cost to the Saudi government of hosting the Hajj will be saved this year, Mecca and Medina will lose out on around the $9bn-$12bn (£7bn-£9bn) worth of business," says Mazen Al Sudairi, head of research at the financial services firm Al-Rajhi Capital in Riyadh.
Mr Al-Sudairi says the government has stepped in to help. "Maybe the small and medium enterprises were suffering, but the Saudi central bank is trying to support this segment, to give them relief, by deferring their loans for a further two or three months.
"We believe that we are facing a recovery period - we think the worst is behind us."
More than 80% of Saudi Arabia's national income comes from oil but prices have plummeted, forcing the country to diversify. Yet things haven't been going so well, according to Alexander Perjessy of Moody's Sovereign Risk Group.
"The government announced in March 2020 it would postpone collection of various government fees, as well as Value Added Tax, for three months. [But] this is not going to avert a recession in the non-oil sector of the economy - we think it will contract by about 4%," he says.
In Mecca, despite the empty bookings screen in front of him, Sajjad Malik does not want to return to his native Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia has served as an economic last-chance saloon for those in neighbouring countries who were struggling to earn enough.
"Working in Saudi for over eight years has allowed me to provide for my children and family back home. We get free medical benefits, and when the Hajj does happen, there are great earnings," he says.
"The labouring community are struggling now. But this country is still number one for me, praise be to God."
This cannot be undone and I am sure it will be greatly appreciated.
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