By Staff writer
This year's ritual has been restricted to around 1,000 pilgrims in light of the global Covid-19 pandemic
Security officials in Saudi Arabia have apprehended 936 people for violating entry instructions to the holy sites during this year’s Hajj.
Authorities in the kingdom dramatically downsized the ritual because of the coronavirus pandemic, with authorities testing pilgrims and cutting their numbers from the usual two million to around 1,000.
As a result, this year’s pilgrims are among a lucky few, selected through an online vetting system open only to residents of the kingdom.
A security cordon has been thrown around the holy sites to prevent any security breaches, an interior ministry spokesman said.
The official spokesperson of Hajj Security Forces Command called on all citizens and residents to abide by Hajj instructions, according to a report on the Saudi Press Agency site.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam, obligatory once in a lifetime for all who are able. Pilgrims often save money for years and apply repeatedly for a spot.
Normally, religious tourism - of which hajj is only a part - brings in revenue equivalent to about 2.7 percent of Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product. But the crowds of people from all over the world are also potential incubators of disease, so the government halted them at the start of the pandemic. Saudi Arabia’s coronavirus cases topped 270,000 this week, with daily new cases falling below 2,000 for the first time since early June.