By MUHAMMAD IBRAHIM, Kaduna
The authorities of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia has said expected participants at 2020 Hajj will be quarantined in line with COVID-19 pandemic protocol, Saudi Arabia’s Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah told a press conference on Tuesday, insisting that compulsory isolation for pilgrims before and after the pilgrimage will also be enforced.
Saudi Arabia Health authorities also disclosed that he numbers of pilgrims could be limited to less or more than 1,000 to protect public health in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, health authorities in announced, Arab news reports.
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 added.
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., Arab
Medical cadres will also accompany pilgrims throughout their journey.
“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,” said Al Rabiah.
He also noted that those serving pilgrims during Hajj will also be tested.
Similarly, the kingdom’s 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 further stated 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 work 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 because of the spread of coronavirus pandemic and the risks of it spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings.
“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.
“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.