A man burns incense at the area around the Kaaba, the square structure in the Great Mosque, toward which believers turn when praying, is prepared for pilgrims, in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Picture: Saudi Ministry of Media via AP

Pilgrims arrive in Mecca amid Covid-19

CAPE TOWN –Saudi Arabia authorities are preparing for Muslim pilgrims who will be arriving in Mecca for a scaled-down Hajj due to the global pandemic.

Hajj normally draws around 2.5 million people in one of the world’s largest gatherings with two-thirds of people traveling from foreign countries and one-third are Saudi citizens.

Saudi Arabia’s latest numbers show 269 000 confirmed coronavirus infections, 2 760 deaths and 223 000 recoveries.

Fatin Daud, a 25-year-old Malaysian currently studying in Saudi Arabia had her application for Hajj approved. She said the Saudi Health Ministry officials conducted Covid-19 tests at her home and was given an electronic bracelet to monitor her whereabouts.

“It was unbelievable. It felt surreal because I was not expecting to get it,” said Daud on her approved application.

“I am confident that safety measures are being taken and that the only thing that we need to do as pilgrims is following instructions, and try our best to support each other,” she said.

This year, the Saudi government is covering all expenses for pilgrims and will provide meals, transport, accommodation and health care.

Pilgrims this year are also required to be between the ages of 20 and 50, in good health, and must wear face masks.

 

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