Pilgrims walk around the Kabba at the Grand Mosque n Makkah Saudi Arabia, on Friday. AP
Organising this year’s scaled-down Hajj required "double efforts" by Saudi authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic, King Salman said on Friday after being discharged from hospital following gall bladder surgery.
Only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom are participating in this year's pilgrimage, compared with 2019's gathering of some 2.5 million from around the world.
"Holding the ritual in the shadow of this pandemic... required reducing the numbers of pilgrims, but it obliged various official agencies to put in double efforts," 84-year-old King Salman said in a speech read out on state television by acting media minister Majid Al Qasabi.
"The Hajj this year was restricted to a very limited number of people from multiple nationalities, ensuring the ritual was completed despite the difficult circumstances," he said.
The speech came on the occasion of Eid Al Adha, the Muslim festival of sacrifice, a day after the king left hospital following a 10-day stay for surgery to remove his gall bladder.
The Hajj, which began on Wednesday, is one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime.
Authorities implemented the "highest health precautions" during the rituals, the king said.
Pilgrims, who were all tested for the virus, are required to wear masks and observe social distancing.
For Friday's "stoning of the devil", the last major ritual of the Hajj, Saudi authorities offered the pilgrims pebbles that were sanitised to protect against the pandemic.
In a sign that its strict measures were working, the health ministry reported no coronavirus cases in the holy sites on Wednesday or Thursday.Agence France-Presse
The Hajj, which begins on Wednesday, normally draws around 2.5 million people for five intense days of worship in one of the world's largest gatherings of people from around the world.
The ministry urged the pilgrim to obtain an approved and negative laboratory examination for the coronavirus 72 hours before the arrival in the Kingdom.
In a statement, the Saudi Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said the new measures will require pilgrims to wear face masks and will forbid entry to the holy sites without a permit, starting from 19th July until 2nd August, 2020.
Col Bin Suwaidan stated further that the police patrols had impounded two vehicles on two separate occasions for illegally fitting their vehicles with using emergency warning lights similar to the police.
The police said that accidents happened because motorists were paying attention to the road and the traffic in front of them.
Authorities have said only one million people can join the 2022 season, less than half of pre-pandemic levels, and access is restricted to pilgrims aged 18 to 65 who have been fully vaccinated or immunised against the virus and do not suffer from chronic diseases.
Oana is from Romania and is currently based in Ras Al-Khaimah. The newly wed who has lived in the UAE for six years runs her own business. A loyal Mahzooz fan, she hopes to score the top prize of Dhs10,000,000 but for now she is grateful for the win.