Worshippers’ safety is Saudi Arabia’s top priority, says Hajj minister

Time: 20 October 2020  

Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten. (AFP)
  • Benten said the gradual resumption of Umrah was taken after studying the global situation

JEDDAH: Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Dr. Mohammed Saleh Benten said on Monday health, safety, and security of worshippers are at the top of the government’s priorities.
Speaking at an online seminar titled “Umrah amid simple procedures and strict precaution,” he said the Saudi authorities are making concerted efforts to serve worshippers without compromising on their safety. Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques and Deputy Hajj Minister Dr. Abdulfattah Mashat also attended the seminar.
“All government entities have been collectively working to ensure that Umrah pilgrims have registered with the Tawakkalna app. They follow up to make sure that visitors have not recently mixed with anyone who has coronavirus or developed any COVID-19 symptoms,” Benten said.
Benten said the gradual resumption of Umrah was taken after studying the global situation. He said the reintroduction of limits on Umrah pilgrims cannot be ruled out. He said it all depended on the number of infections around the world.
“We are in close contact with the Health Ministry, and if we detect any danger, we will immediately change our plans. However, we may increase the numbers of visitors if we witness a drop in COVID-19 cases,” he added.
The minister concluded that opening Umrah for international visitors would be an extraordinary decision. “No country has so far announced to receive such a huge number of visitors during the pandemic. Once approved, Saudi Arabia will be the only country to take such an initiative.”
Al-Sudais highlighted the measures taken to help pilgrims perform rituals in a safe environment without any hassles.

This article was first published in Arab News

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24k pilgrims perform Umrah after Grand Mosque reopening with no reported virus cases

Time: 08 October 2020  

Strict health and safety measures had been introduced to protect pilgrims and help stop the spread of the virus. (AFP)
  • Tens of thousands of Zamzam bottles have been distributed among pilgrims on a daily
  • Air-conditioning systems and filters were receiving nine daily cleans using ultraviolet sanitizing technology

JEDDAH: At least 24,000 pilgrims have performed Umrah since the Grand Mosque in Makkah reopened its doors to worshippers on Saturday, with no reported cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), figures have revealed.

The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques on Wednesday said that strict health and safety measures had been introduced to protect pilgrims and help stop the spread of the virus.

“Our precautionary measures plan for Umrah with COVID-19 is based on protection, sanitization, crowd management, and raising awareness,” said presidency spokesperson Hani Haider.

“We have prepared four isolation sites for pilgrims with suspicious symptoms. However, no suspected COVID-19 case has yet been reported.”

In order to ensure social distancing, the presidency has designated special pathways for elderly and disabled people to help them safely perform Umrah rituals.

Haider pointed out that efforts were being concentrated on the sanitization of the Grand Mosque and its arenas with 4,000 workers doing an average 10 cleans a day. More than 1,800 liters of eco-friendly disinfectants and sanitizers were also being used to clean toilets six times each day.

Air-conditioning systems and filters were receiving nine daily cleans using ultraviolet sanitizing technology, and more than 200 hand-sanitizing devices had been distributed around the Grand Mosque.

A ban on food and drinks at the Grand Mosque remained in place but the presidency was looking to employ the latest technology to redistribute Zamzam water containers again while maintaining precautionary measures and preventing contact between pilgrims, added Haider.

Meanwhile, the presidency has been distributing tens of thousands of Zamzam bottles among pilgrims on a daily basis and its dedicated 1966 hotline was available around the clock to answer calls from worshippers.

The Saudi Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday 468 new cases of COVID-19 in the country, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the Kingdom to 337,711. There were currently 9,556 active cases, 913 of which were receiving medical care.

Madinah recorded the highest number of newly confirmed cases at 71, with Makkah reporting 53, Yanbu 31, and Al-Hofuf 29.

In addition, 596 patients had recovered from COVID-19, raising the total number of recoveries to 323,208. The death toll reached 4,947 with 24 new deaths reported.

Madinah was the Saudi city that witnessed the highest number of recoveries at 118, with Jeddah and Riyadh recording 43 each, and Makkah 34 recoveries in the past 24 hours.

Ministry spokesman, Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly, pointed out the importance of people adhering to rules about wearing face masks.

“Face masks are extremely important to maintain health in these circumstances and no harm will result from wearing them on a daily basis. Some people have been wearing them for years due to their work necessities without any harm coming to them,” he said.

Al-Aly noted that the Kingdom’s success in curbing the spread of infection was chiefly due to public diligence on the wearing of masks, adding that some countries were witnessing a second wave of COVID-19 partly as a result of people going too far in relaxing their commitment to preventive behaviors.

The ministry has so far conducted 6,828,117 polymerase chain reaction tests since the virus outbreak in the country in early March, with 52,184 carried out in the latest 24-hour period.

This article was first published in Arab News

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First pilgrims arrive at Grand Mosque after six-month curb

04/10/20

The first group of pilgrims are checked for signs of coronavirus as they arrive in Jeddah on Saturday, before proceeding to Makkah. (Supplied)

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