The kingdom of Saudi Arabia reopened borders on Monday May 17, with strict restrictions in place. The Saudi Ministry announced that this year’s Hajj will take place as planned, but with utmost health and safety precautions in place.
Hajj 2021 is expected to begin on July 17. Although the pilgrimage takes three days, most of them extend their stay and plan trips to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. This year, with the pandemic in place, the Kingdom has come up with an extensive set of precautions in order to ensure safety of the pilgrims. In fact, Saudi also plans to use robots to manage crowds and organise the pilgrimage. Here’s what we know so far.
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Who Can Perform Hajj This Year?
Saudi Arabia on 12 June announced that only residents and citizens of the kingdom will be permitted to perform Hajj this year. Furthermore, pilgrim numbers have been limited to 60,000, in order to curb the spread of the pandemic.
All pilgrims who wish to participate in this year’s Hajj must be between 18 and 65 years of age and must have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the pilgrimage. Besides, they must free of any chronic illness that may require special medical supervision. Pilgrims who have received only the first dose of the vaccine must ensure they take the second dose at least two weeks before they arrive.
Vaccinated pilgrims must carry their vaccination certificates authorised by approved health institutes in their country of origin. In addition, they must also provide a negative PCR test certificate issued by a recognised laboratory not more than 40 hours earlier.
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What Are The Rules To Be Followed At The Holy Sites?
All employees working directly or indirectly for Hajj 2021 must be vaccinated. Foreign pilgrims will have to quarantine for three days beforehand. All health documents including vaccination certificates will be verified prior to entry. Besides, all pilgrims must also undergo visual screening procedures at the time of entry. They will then be divided into groups to be transported to the holy sites.
Food must be provided to the pilgrims only inside their rooms; buffet services are banned. When the pilgrims travel to Arafat, they will be handed over sterilized bags and designated pathways will be allotted to help navigate safely. Specific seats will also be assigned, with proper social distancing protocols in place.
This year, Hajj goes digital with the usage of technology to manage crowd and organize the pilgrimage. Robots will be employed to provide fatwas (edicts), and guidance to the pilgrims. As well as pilgrims will have access to electronic Qur’an, and the movement of pilgrims will be linked to the computer. All pilgrims will be provided with accurate timings from their arrival in Saudi until they return home safely.