Saudi Arabia issues protocols to ensure the safety of pilgrims during Hajj

06/07/20

The Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) has set safety protocols amid the ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic. The protocols affects all workers and pilgrims. (Photo/Supplied)

All rituals will be performed as per the rules set by the authorities to control the spread of coronavirus
JEDDAH: With coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases still surging throughout the world, Saudi Arabia has limited the number of pilgrims to performing this year’s Hajj and put several protocols in place.

The Saudi Center for Disease Prevention and Control (Weqaya) has set the protocols to decrease the infection rate and ensure pilgrims’ safety. Saudi Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah announced earlier last month that the number of pilgrims would be limited this year.
Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Mohammed Saleh Benten said that the decision to limit numbers “aims to protect people above everything else, which has been the priority of the Kingdom since the start of the pandemic.”
The long list of protocols affects all workers and pilgrims this year. From July 19, authorities will prohibit all entry into Mina, Muzdalifa, and Arafat without permits.
Guides and awareness signs must be placed in all areas and written in various languages that include COVID-19 infection warnings, hand washing protocols, sneezing and coughing etiquette, and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Organizers must distribute pilgrims in the Tawaf area around the Kaaba to decrease overcrowding while adhering to a 1.5-meter distance between each person. Organizers at the Holy Mosque must ensure that pilgrims are distributed on all floors of the Saee (ritual walking between Safa and Marwa) and place track lines to maintain social distancing while ensuring that the grounds around the Kaaba and Saee are sanitized by cleaning crews before and after each group performing Tawaf.
Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited, barriers will be set to prevent reaching the sites and the mosque’s carpets are to be removed to allow pilgrims to use their personal prayer rugs instead to decrease the chances of the spread of any infection.
Food will not be permitted in the mosque nor will it be allowed on the mosque’s grounds.
All personnel, guides, pilgrims and workers’ temperatures must be checked throughout the pilgrimage; protective face masks and gear must be worn at all times. Floor signs must be placed in locations such as baggage claim areas, restaurants and bus stops with a meter-and-a-half distance between each floor sign.
Concerning the protocols for Arafat and Muzdalifa, pilgrims must adhere to social distancing at all times, wear masks and organizers must ensure that no more than 10 pilgrims are located in a tent of 50 square meters, ensuring a 1.5-meter distance between each pilgrim. Pilgrims must adhere to designated tracks and organizers must be vigilant and ensure that all pilgrims stay in line while adhering to social distancing rules.
Organizers must assemble no more than 50 pilgrims heading to the Jamarat (stone pillars) per group and disinfected and packaged pebbles will be provided for pilgrims as well.

HIGHLIGHTS
• Organizers must distribute pilgrims in the Tawaf area around the Kaaba to decrease overcrowding.

• Food will not be permitted in the mosque nor will it be allowed on the mosque’s grounds.

• Touching the Holy Kaaba and Black Stone will be prohibited. Organizers must assemble no more than 50 pilgrims heading to the Jamarat (stone pillars) per group.

Those suspected of carrying the infection will be allowed to perform their pilgrimage only after being evaluated and cleared by a physician. They will be allocated into specific groups of suspected cases, placed in designated accommodation, and in buses with designated tracks to accommodate their condition.
Weqaya’s protocols also advised that no personnel are allowed to work if they contract flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose, a sore throat, or sudden loss of the sense of smell or taste) until symptoms disappear and are cleared by a physician.
Disinfecting and sanitization rounds must be scheduled and organized to ensure that surfaces such as door handles and tables in reception areas, public seating areas, and waiting areas are cleaned around the clock.
Sanitizers must be placed next to ATMs, touch-screen guides, and vending machines while all printed magazines and newspapers must be removed to decrease the possibility of transmission.
Workers at pilgrims’ accommodation must always wear face masks. Guests must wear masks when leaving their rooms and workers must disinfect and sanitize all luggage on arrival.
Weqaya also laid out protocols to decrease the rate of transmission at restaurants and rest stops. Water coolers must be discontinued in the Grand Mosque and holy sites and individual bottled Zamzam water will be available and distributed to pilgrims at all times.
Individual pre-packaged meals and food will be served to pilgrims. Workers distributing the meals must follow strict protocols that include washing hands for no less than 40 seconds using soap and water throughout their shifts and where they are not able to access these, alcohol-based sanitizers must be used instead for no less than 20 seconds.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia: Hajj 2020 to be held with limited number of pilgrims

22/06/20

Pilgrims arrive in Mina during Hajj in 2019. (AFP/File)
  • Decision taken due to the ongoing threat from the coronavirus pandemic
  • Pilgrims will come from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: Hajj will go ahead next month but with a “very limited” number of pilgrims allowed to take part, Saudi Arabia said on Monday.

The decision was taken due to the ongoing threat from the coronavirus pandemic and to preserve “global public health,” the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said.

Pilgrims taking part will be from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia.

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About 2.5 million pilgrims performed Hajj last year but the ongoing scale and spread of COVID-19 worldwide means people will not be able to travel to the Kingdom to take part.

The ministry said the decision had been made “in light of continuation of the pandemic and the risks of Coronavirus spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings.”

The statement said: “A very limited number of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform it.

Pilgrims travel to Mount Arafat on the second day of Hajj last year. (Arab News/ Ali Khamg)

“This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols.”

Last year, more than 1.8 million pilgrims traveled to Saudi Arabia from abroad to take part. The Hajj ministry said this year the risk of transmitting the disease between countries and the increase in infections globally meant the risk was too high.

The ministry said Saudi Arabia’s top priority is to always enable Muslim pilgrims can  perform Hajj and Umrah safely and securely.

The Council of Senior Scholars said on Monday it supported what the Kingdom’s decision to limit the number of pilgrims in order to preserve their health and safety.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Minister of Awqaf, Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, said that in light of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, his country also supports the Kingdom’s decision to limit the number of pilgrims, based on nationalities as well.

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Saudi Arabia deserves praise for best Hajj arrangements

26/01/20

Muslim pilgrims leave after offering noon prayers outside the Namirah mosque on Arafat Mountain, during the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. (AP)

Saudi King Salman confers the King Abdul Aziz Medal on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Riyadh on April 3, 2016. (SPA)
  • Presence of 2.6 million Indian expats in Saudi Arabia boosts bilateral ties

On the occasion of India’s 71st Republic Day, I extend my best wishes to my fellow Indian citizens in the western region of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

India and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial and friendly relations which reflect centuries-old economic and socio-cultural ties.
Visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Saudi Arabia in April 2016 and in October 2019 plus the exchanges of other high-level visits have further strengthened the warm relations between the two countries.
As our prime minister said during his visit in October 2019, India would work hand-in-hand with Saudi Arabia on the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan.
The presence of over 2.6 million Indian expatriates in the Kingdom has also contributed immensely to the strength of economic and socio-cultural ties between our two nations.
Bilateral trade delegations have also increased in the last few years. Indian business delegations are now a regular feature of trade exhibitions in Jeddah and other parts of the Kingdom. The Indian Consulate in Jeddah works tirelessly and diligently to provide the best possible service to Indian nationals residing in the western region of the Kingdom.
This good service includes reducing to three working days the length of time required for issuing/reissuing passports.
The introduction of an e-visa facility for Saudi nationals has further streamlined visa processing and provides a smooth first step for those wanting to visit India.
The Indian government and the people of India are grateful to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Hajj Minister Dr. Mohammed Benten for making excellent arrangements during Hajj 2019. In that year, 200,000 Indian nationals performed Hajj and more than 650,000 Indians came for Umrah.
The Indian side remains committed to partnering closely with Saudi Arabia and working toward a very successful Hajj 2020.
We sincerely express our gratitude to King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi ministries of foreign affairs, labor, interior and the authorities of Jawazat, Tarheel and other concerned agencies who have always provided exemplary assistance to the consulate which has enabled the comfortable stay of the many Indians visiting, living, and working in the Kingdom.


• Md. Noor Rahman Sheikh is India’s consul general in Jeddah. 

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Saudi Hajj Ministry widens plans for Egypt, Sudan pilgrims

14/12/19

Agreement signed with the Sudanese delegation
Saudi Hajj minister Mohammed Salih Bentin signs agreement with a member of the Sudanese delegation. (Supplied)
  • Saudi Hajj ministry has signed agreements with Egypt and Sudan

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has signed agreements with Egypt and Sudan in preparation for next year’s Hajj season.
Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Mohammed Salih Bentin, met Maj. Gen. Ashraf Muslim Gawish, Egypt’s assistant minister of interior and head of pilgrims affairs, and Nasreddine Mufreh Ahmed, Sudan’s minister of religious affairs and endowments, on Thursday to discuss Egyptian and Sudanese pilgrims’ requirements.
The meeting was also attended by the Kingdom’s Deputy Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, and several officials.
Under the agreements, the arrival and needs of pilgrims from Egypt and Sudan will be overseen by service agencies as part of the pilgrims services system.

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Hajj Ministry announces insurance for pilgrims

Time: December 12, 2019 

Hajj and Umrah Minister Mohammed Salih Bentin and Tawuniya Chairman Sulaiman Al-Humaid signed an agreement on Wednesday to provide insurance for pilgrims coming from outside Saudi Arabia. (Supplied)
  • Comes as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan
  • Supported by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah

JEDDAH: Hajj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten and Tawuniya Chairman Sulaiman Al-Humaid signed an agreement on Wednesday to provide insurance for pilgrims coming from outside Saudi Arabia.

The signing took place at the Hajj and Umrah Ministry’s headquarters in Makkah. As part of the agreement, the ministry will provide health and other insurance services to pilgrims from the time they arrive in the Kingdom until they leave.

The insurance scheme comes as part of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to enhance pilgrims’ experiences, said Minister Benten.

Tawuniya was tapped by the Hajj and Umrah Ministry in consultation with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and the Health Insurance Council, he added.

The insurance will be linked to the visa as soon as the pilgrim arrives in Saudi Arabia, he said. There will be a hotline, and pilgrims will be served by teams who speak multiple languages.

Ayman Al-Arfaj, general supervisor of the ministry’s media center, said the insurance will cost SR189 per person, which will be paid to the insurance company and will cover 30 days, the total stay of the pilgrim in Saudi Arabia.

He said that insurance will be unified for all pilgrims and will cover emergency cases, accidents and repatriation of the remains of pilgrims who die in Saudi Arabia. A pilgrim automatically gets insurance once the visa is issued.

Pilgrims in need of health assistance can avail themselves of the insurance benefit by presenting their passports at any hospital or clinic under the Saudi Ministry of Health or any private hospital and clinic accredited by the Health Insurance Council, Al-Arfaj said.

Abdulaziz bin Hadsan Al-Bouq, CEO of Tawuniya, which has been awarded the contract for four years, said the Kingdom is developing innovative methods to provide health services and reduce accidents at holy sites.

This project, he added, is supported by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah and each insurance covers an amount of SR100,000 ($26,665) per person.

Al-Arfaj noted that since the start of the Umrah season in October, a total of 1,518,649 pilgrims have arrived in the Kingdom.

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Saudi Hajj minister signs agreements for 2020 Hajj season

03/12/19

Saudi minister for Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten signs agreement with Moroccan Islamic Affairs Minister Ahmed Tawfik. (Supplied)
  • These agreements pertained to the arrival of pilgrims coming from the aforementioned countries

MAKKAH: The minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr. Mohammed Saleh bin Taher Benten, recently signed several agreements in meetings with the head of the Iraqi Hajj mission, Sheikh Khalid Al-Attiyah, the Moroccan minister of Islamic affairs, Ahmed Tawfik, and the Indian minister of minority affairs, Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

The agreements came within the framework of early preparations for the Hajj season this year, with the meetings conducted in the presence of Dr. Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, the Saudi deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah.

These agreements pertained to the arrival of pilgrims coming from the aforementioned countries, to provide all requirements for people to perform their rituals.

In a statement, the minister of Hajj and Umrah stated King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were keen to ensure the safety of pilgrims in the Kingdom until their departure.

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Hajj Minister: 1.1 million pilgrims have arrived in Kingdom since start of Umrah season

25/11/19

Muslim pilgrims walk around the Kaaba, the cubic building at the Grand Mosque, during the minor pilgrimage, known as Umrah, in the Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Friday, May 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
  • Pakistan and Indonesia combined accounted for more than half of the pilgrims
  • Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched “inaya” (care) centers to provide comprehensive services pilgrims

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that 1,339,376 Umrah visas have been issued so far for Hijri year 1441, which started on August 31, 2019 in the Gregorian calendar.

The number of pilgrims coming to Saudi Arabia has reached 1,133,365 with 297,491 pilgrims currently in the Kingdom and 835,874 pilgrims having left.

In its statistical report, the ministry noted that 1,088,608 pilgrims had arrived in the Kingdom by air, 44,750 by land and 7 by sea.

By country, 319,494 pilgrims arrived from Pakistan, 306,461 from Indonesia, 195,345 from India, 50,841 from Malaysia, 50,775 from Turkey, 36,021 from Bangladesh, 28,785 from Algeria, 18,146 from Morocco, 16,851 from Iraq and 16,223 from Jordan.

With the beginning of Umrah season, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah launched “inaya” (care) centers to provide comprehensive services for beneficiaries. The ministry also developed the central booking system MAQAM, that allows Umrah companies, hotel and transportation companies and pilgrims and visitors of the Prophet’s Mosque to contact each other directly, thus achieving the highest standards of control, efficiency and transparency.

MAQAM, in tandem with the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Information Center, also issues e-visas without the need for paperwork, as part of efforts exerted to achieve one of the most important goals of Vision 2030, improving the quality of services provided for pilgrims.

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‘Smart Hajj’: More services planned to improve pilgrims’ experience

Time: October 09, 2019  

Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, left, and Dr. AbdulRahman Aljadhai, CEO of Elm company, sign two memorandums of understanding to develop and operate an electronic platform for subsistence, health, environment, and to establish and operate the Qualifying and Licensing Center for Employees of Hajj and Umrah Sectors. (Photos/Supplied)

  • The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is one of the participants in GITEX 2019, an annual technological event in Dubai

JEDDAH: The first phase of “Smart Hajj” helped the movement, transportation and safety of pilgrims this year, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced.
Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat, deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, and Dr. AbdulRahman Aljadhai, CEO of Elm Co., signed two memorandums of understanding to develop and operate the electronic platform for subsistence, health, environment, and to establish and operate the Qualifying and Licensing Center for Employees of Hajj and Umrah Sectors.
“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is undergoing digital transformation in cooperation with leading technology companies to promote the concepts of using smart solutions to provide high-quality services for the Guests of Allah, which will contribute to improving and enriching pilgrims’ experience in the Kingdom as well as achieve one of the main goals of Saudi Vision 2030,” Dr. Mashat said during a press statement at GITEX 2019.
“The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, in accordance with the instructions and guidance of the Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Mohammad Salih Bentin, has made many strategic partnerships with the private sector to improve the quality of services and the development of ‘Smart Hajj’ solutions, including the signing of memorandums of understanding last year with SAP in the field of technology, digital infrastructure, cloud computing, geospatial cloud computing platforms, Internet of Things, and smart cards to improve services,” he said.
Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, chief planning and strategy officer at the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, said: “Our Smart Hajj ensures that millions of pilgrims from around the world are transported quickly, easily and safely to religious sites on set schedules.
“The successful digital transformation allows real-time insights to optimize travel and crowd experiences and during our second phase of Smart Hajj we will roll-out predictive modeling and simulation for millions of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.”
The “Smart Hajj” captures in real time pilgrims using the Internet of Things, geospatial and camera analytics, along with data from the pilgrim experience mobile feedback platform.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah is one of the participants in GITEX 2019, an annual technological event in Dubai. The ministry is showcasing its latest technologies in serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and enriching their experience in Saudi Arabia.

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Health Ministry treats 649,690 Hajj pilgrims

Time: August 24, 2019  

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The number of participants in serving pilgrims this year reached 30,000 employees of the Ministry of Health. (SPA)
  • For the first time this year, the ministry used robotic technology for medical consultations, which gave hospitals in Mina remote access to consultants in micro specialties

RIYADH: The Ministry of Health has revealed specialized services provided by its hospitals and health centers in Makkah, Madinah and holy sites for pilgrims during Hajj.
The ministry said that the number of pilgrims who received treatment in hospitals and health centers reached 649,690.
The number of participants in serving pilgrims this year reached 30,000 employees of the Ministry of Health, while 25 hospitals were prepared in Makkah and Madinah, with a total capacity of 5,000 beds.
For the first time this year, the ministry used robotic technology for medical consultations, which gave hospitals in Mina remote access to consultants in micro specialties.

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Sudanese pilgrims thank king for Hajj hosting

Time: August 19, 2019  

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The program, which was implemented by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, invited 1,000 pilgrims from Sudan to perform Hajj. (SPA)
  • The worshippers said that the hosting reflects King Salman’s appreciation for their sacrifices in defending their Yemeni brothers against Iranian-backed Houthi militias

MAKKAH: Sudanese pilgrims who came as part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah thanked King Salman for hosting them.
The program, which was implemented by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance, invited 1,000 pilgrims from Sudan to perform Hajj.
Of them, 500 came from the Sudanese Army and those belonging to the families of fallen Sudanese troops who fought with the Arab coalition forces to support the legitimate government in Yemen.
The worshippers said that the hosting reflects King Salman’s appreciation for their sacrifices in defending their Yemeni brothers against Iranian-backed Houthi militias, that violated all international laws. They said that the kind gesture represents the historical relations and unrivaled support shown to Sudan by Saudi Arabia.

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