The Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (SDPC) issued, on Monday, the health protocol for the upcoming annual Muslim pilgrimage (Hajj).
The protocol has been put in place to ensure the safety of pilgrims and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
In June, Saudi Arabia announced that it will only be allowing a very limited number of citizens and residents already living in the kingdom to perform the Muslim pilgrimage.
Only pilgrims that have permits will be allowed to enter the holy sites at Mina, Muzdalifah, and Arafat, between 19 July and 2 August.
Suspected coronavirus cases will be allowed to complete their Hajj pilgrimage following an evaluation by doctors. A separate floor, at the very least, as well as a bus, will be designated for suspected coronavirus cases.
Congregational prayers will be allowed under strict restrictions, including the mandatory wearing of face masks. Worshippers will also be asked to adhere to social distancing of at least a metre and a half.
Organisers and workers employed for the Hajj who are suffering influenza-like symptoms will not be allowed to continue their duties until their recovery.
Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will also be banned, and organisers will set barriers to prevent worshippers from reaching these sites.
All carpets at the Holy Mosque in Mecca will be removed, and pilgrims will be asked to use their own prayers mats.
All surfaces will be sterilised regularly, with a focus on those areas that are likely to see a large amount of human contact, such as seating benches, waiting areas, door handles, and dining tables.
Toilets will be disinfected regularly, and sterilisation products will be offered at gathering places, walkways and toilets. All water coolers at the Holy Mosque and other sites associated with the pilgrimage will either be removed or disabled.
Pilgrims are obliged to wear face masks at all times during the Hajj in addition to adhering to social distancing measures.
Only pre-packaged food will be allowed during the Hajj, and food will not be permitted in the holy mosque or its arena.
The number of pilgrims must not exceed 50% of the capacity of each bus. Organizers must ensure that no more than ten pilgrims stay in a tent of 50 square meters, while maintaining a distance of one meter and a half between each pilgrim.
The ritual of stoning the devil will also be different this year, as organizers must assemble no more 50 pilgrims to head to Jamarat in Mina per group, and previously sterilized and packed stones will be provided.
Pilgrims must adhere to 14-day self-isolation after the end of the Hajj under the supervision of health authorities