The five-day annual Hajj pilgrimage began in Makkah, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday with strict measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
A downsized Hajj, this year the number of pilgrims have been drastically reduced to 10,000 from last year’s 2.5 million making it perhaps the safest Hajj ever. In past years, pilgrims have faced a host of viral illnesses, with some falling sick and developing respiratory diseases after mingling with large crowds and staying in cramped pilgrim camps where social distancing was unheard of.
The kingdom has put strict safety protocols in place with a mandatory quarantine that began on Tuesday. According to details, pilgrims had to undergo COVID-19 tests before arriving in Mecca. They are required to wear masks and maintain social distance at all times. Attendees were also given elaborate amenity kits that included sterilised pebbles for the ritual Stoning of the Devil (rami), disinfectant, masks and a prayer rug, according to the Hajj ministry.
Several health facilities, mobile clinics and ambulances are also available on hand while workers continuously clean and disinfect the holy site, in uniforms resembling those of hospital staff.
Saudi authorities initially said only around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom would be permitted for Hajj however, local media later reported that as many as 10,000 will be allowed to take part.
Some 70% of the pilgrims are foreigners residing in the kingdom, while the rest will be Saudi citizens.
Check out pictures from this year’s first-ever ‘socially distant’ Hajj below: