Saudi Arabia has announced that this year&rsquos Hajj pilgrimage will begin on July 29, and will be scaled down to only around 1,000 Muslim pilgrims, to control the spread of the coronavirus.
&ldquoThe stand of pilgrims on Mount Arafat, the peak of the Hajj ritual, falls on Thursday [July 30],&rdquo the kingdom&rsquos Supreme Court said, indicating that July 29 would be the first day of the annual event.
The timing of the Hajj is determined by the lunar calendar and position of the moon. Over 25 lakh people usually participate in the ritual which is centred around the holy city of Mecca. Although Hajj officials have said the pilgrimage will be restricted to 1,000 people who are already in the kingdom, both foreigners and citizens, some press reports have said that up to 10,000 people could take part. The decision to exclude pilgrims arriving from outside Saudi Arabia is a first in the kingdom's modern history.
This year&rsquos Hajj will be held under strict hygiene protocols, and access will be limited to pilgrims who are under 65 and display no chronic medical conditions. Those taking part will be tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Mecca. They will be required to quarantine at home after the ritual.
The Saudi-based Muslim World League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation have backed the government&rsquos move for the health and safety of pilgrims. Saudi Arabia on Monday reported 2,429 new coronavirus cases, taking the total infections in the kingdom to 2,53,349, according to a report in Gulf News reported. The death toll stood at 2,523.
Last month, India had announced that Indian pilgrims will not go for the Hajj pilgrimage this year due to the ongoing pandemic, and rising number of cases in the country.