The King Abdulaziz International Airport on Friday received the first batch of Hajj pilgrims; who will be performing this year’s Hajj rituals under exceptional circumstances. Only residents and citizens inside the kingdom will be performing Hajj this year.
The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced on Twitter that it welcomed the pilgrims amid precautionary measures and in cooperation with the Civil Aviation Authority. The batch of pilgrims came from the Qassim region and arrived five days before the start of Hajj rites.
This comes after relevant authorities have completed all preparations for the service of Hajj pilgrims this year and this covers all health precautionary measures as part of a comprehensive plan that involves security, health, and services.
In the last few days, the Hajj and Umrah Ministry prepared a hotel to receive the pilgrims and host them while they stay in Makkah. Each pilgrim will have a fully-equipped room with health preventative tools and will be checked daily through health screening points.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia completed the electronic screening of more than 160 nationalities residing in Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj rituals for this year.
Residents in Saudi Arabia will constitute the largest percentage of pilgrims this year; standing at 70 % of the total number of pilgrims. Saudi citizens will also constitute 30%, the majority of whom worked in the medical and military sectors; who infected and recovered from the coronavirus.
The pilgrims’ health status was the main criteria used in selecting who can participate in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage; state news agency SPA also reported.
The selection process was in a transparent manner. It also focused on participants’ well-being; the report added, quoting Saudi Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten.
Saudi Arabia decided to limit pilgrims in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage; with the continued threat of coronavirus to ‘global public health’, the Hajj and Umrah ministry earlier said.
Only Saudi residents and citizens under 65 years old join the pilgrimage and must take mandatory coronavirus testing and undergo quarantine.
“This decision is to ensure performing Hajj in a safe manner from a public health perspective; while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols,” a statement from the ministry said.
About 2.5 million pilgrims performed Hajj last year; with more than 1.8 million of them traveling from overseas to perform one of the pillars of Islam.