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Hajj pilgrimage went downsized due to COVID-19

July 31, 2020 | 07:29

Muslims begin annual hajj in Saudi Arabia with 2 million to Saudi Arabia but now have been restricted to only 10,000 people amid Covid-19 control.  

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Islamic annual hajj in the holy city of Mecca has dramatically downsized as the hosts, Saudi Arabia, try to prevent any outbreaks of coronavirus during the five-day pilgrimage.

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People stand near the Kaaba at the almost empty Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

The hajj, one of the five pillars or most important practices of Islam and an obligation for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world’s largest religious gatherings as around 2.5 million people descend on the city from all over the world, said The Guardian.

There are, however, only 10,000 people this year already residing in the kingdom will present at the ritual, a tiny fraction compared to other years due to COVID-19. More than 270,000 Saudi Arabians have been infected with the disease, listing in the top 20 worst-affected countries.

Pilgrims will be required to wear masks and worship at a social distance as they complete one of the five pillars of Islam - which is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings, according to Daily Mail.

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Saudi labourers put up the new Kiswa, the protective cover that engulfs the Kaaba. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

“There are no security-related concerns in this pilgrimage, but [downsizing] is to protect pilgrims from the danger of the pandemic,” said Khalid bin Qarar al-Harbi, Saudi Arabia’s director of public security. The holy Ka’bah, the most sacred site in Islam, will be cordoned off.

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Muslim pilgrims maintain social distancing as they circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque during the annual Haj pilgrimage. Photo: Reuters

Those selected to take part in the hajj were subject to temperature checks and placed in quarantine as they began trickling into Mecca at the weekend, reported The Guardian.

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The first group of female pilgrims praying in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca at the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The hajj ministry said non-Saudi residents of the kingdom from around 160 countries competed in the online selection process but it did not say how many people applied.

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Muslim pilgrims wearing protective face masks arrive to circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

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Hundreds of Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, as they observe social distancing to protect themselves against the coronavirus. Photograph: AP

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Security personnel look on as pilgrims arrive. Photograph: Ministry of Media/AP

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The pilgrims started the hajj after finishing four days of hotel isolation in Mecca and prior to that a week-long quarantine at home. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

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Workers wearing blue uniforms and face masks lay out lines to mark where pilgrims should stand to keep their distance during this year's pilgrimage, which is expected to involve only around 10,000 people. Photo: AFP

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Muslim pilgrims maintain social distancing as they circle the Kaaba at the Grand mosque. Photo: Reuters
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