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Saudi gears up for scaled-down Hajj beginning July 29

Riyadh: The Saudi Interior Ministry announced the Kingdom’s readiness for the upcoming Haj season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which will begin on July 29.

This year’s Hajj has been scaled back dramatically to include only about 1,000 Muslim pilgrims due to the pandemic.

Zayed Al Tuwailan, commander of Haj Security Forces, told the media that the forces are ready to ensure the safety of pilgrims, Xinhua quoted the Saudi Press Agency as saying in the report.

He revealed that pilgrims of 160 nationalities, 70 of whom are foreign residents in the Kingdom, would take part in this year’s annual pilgrimage.

“It is an extraordinary season with extraordinary measures to tackle the coronavirus for the safety of pilgrims,” Al Tuwailan said.

This is not the first time Saudi Arabia has restricted participation in the pilgrimage.

Between 2014 and 2016, Muslim faithful from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and several other African countries were excluded from the Haj due to Ebola.

Those taking part will be tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Mecca and are required to quarantine at home after the ritual, according to health officials.

Some 2.5 million people usually participate in the ritual of several days, which is centred on the holy city of Mecca.

The annual pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam, which every Muslim must perform at least once if his or her physical and economic state allow.

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