Saudi Arabia announced health protocols to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in the 2020 haj season, banning gatherings and meetings between pilgrims, the state news agency said on Monday.
Saudi Arabia decided in June to limit the number of domestic pilgrims attending the haj to around 1,000 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after barring Muslims abroad from the rite for the first year in modern times.
Priority will be given to non-Saudi pilgrims who will be allotted 70% of available slots, the ministry that oversees pilgrimages said in a statement. Those selected must test negative for the virus, must be first-time pilgrims between 20 and 50 years old and have no chronic medical conditions.
Saudi healthcare workers and security personnel who have recovered from the novel coronavirus will be given the rest of the slots, "in recognition of their role in caring for society at all stages of the pandemic," the statement said.
Touching the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, will be banned during the haj this year, and a social distancing space of a meter and a half between each pilgrim during the rituals including mass prayers and while in the Kaaba circling area will be imposed, a statement by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) said.Also, access to holy haj sites at Mona, Muzdalifah and Arafat will be limited to those with haj permits starting Sunday July 19 till Aug. 2 2020, and wearing masks at all times will be mandatory for both pilgrims and organizers.