By Staff writer
Face masks must be worn by worshippers and social distancing observed throughout
Touching the Kaaba is strictly forbidden during this year’s Hajj as part of strict guidelines issued to prevent the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus.
According to the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, pilgrims have been instructed to employ social distancing of one-and-a-half metres during mass prayers and while performing tawaf (the walk around the Kaaba seven times).
Gatherings and meetings have also been banned, while worshippers must wear a face mask during the congregational prayer. Measures concerning water and food, hygiene and transport in buses have also been revealed by authorities, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
Last month Saudi Arabia announced that it will allow around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom to perform the hajj this year, due to coronavirus, with admission to the holy sites – Mona, Muzdalifah and Arafat – from July 19 to August 2, granted only to permit holders.
It will be the first time in Saudi Arabia's modern history that muslims outside the kingdom have been barred from performing the hajj, a must for able-bodied muslims at least once in their lifetime, which last year drew 2.5 million pilgrims.
The smaller year-round umrah pilgrimage was already suspended in March. Together, they add $12 billion to the Saudi economy every year, according to government figures.
Saudi Arabia has recorded 209,509 cases of coronavirus to date, while 1,916 people have died from the virus in the kingdom.