Saudi hosts vaccinated pilgrims for 2nd downsized hajj – Times of India

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will host one other downsized hajj from Saturday, with solely residents absolutely vaccinated towards the coronavirus permitted and abroad Muslim pilgrims barred for a second 12 months.
The kingdom seeks to repeat final 12 months’s success that noticed no virus outbreak throughout the 5-day Muslim ritual.
It is permitting 60,000 residents of Saudi Arabia to take part, greater than in 2020 however drastically decrease than in regular occasions. People will start to reach on Saturday, a day earlier than the beginning of rites.
In 2019, some 2.5 million Muslims from all over the world participated within the annual hajj — a key pillar of Islam that could be a should for ready-bodied Muslims no less than as soon as of their lifetime.
Earlier this month, the hajj ministry stated it was engaged on the “highest levels of health precautions” in mild of the pandemic and the emergence of new variants.
Chosen from greater than 558,000 candidates via a web based vetting system, the occasion is confined to those that have been absolutely vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no persistent diseases, it stated.
The pilgrimage, which generally packs massive crowds into congested spiritual websites, is probably an excellent-spreader of the virus.
Aside from strict social distancing measures, the ministry stated it can introduce a “smart hajj card” to permit contact-free entry to camps, inns and buses to ferry pilgrims round spiritual websites.
The card system would additionally assist observe down any lacking pilgrims, it added.
Authorities have deployed black-and-white robots to dispense bottles of sacred water from the Zamzam spring in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, constructed across the Kaaba, the black cubic construction in direction of which Muslims all over the world pray.
The revered Black Stone within the Kaaba — which it’s customary however not necessary to the touch throughout the pilgrimage — is anticipated to be saved out of attain.
Saudi Arabia has to this point recorded greater than 503,000 coronavirus infections, together with over 8,000 deaths.
More than 20 million vaccine doses towards coronavirus have been administered within the nation of over 34 million folks.
The hajj went forward final 12 months on the smallest scale in fashionable historical past, with authorities initially saying only one,000 pilgrims had been allowed however native media saying as much as 10,000 took half.
No infections had been reported as authorities arrange a number of well being services, cell clinics and ambulances to cater for the pilgrims, who had been taken to the spiritual websites in small batches.
They had been additionally given amenity kits that included sterilised pebbles for the “stoning of Satan” ritual, disinfectants, masks, a prayer rug and ihram, the normal seamless white hajj garment, produced from a micro organism-resistant materials.
Hosting the hajj is a matter of status for Saudi rulers, for whom the custodianship of Islam’s holiest websites is their strongest supply of political legitimacy.
But barring abroad pilgrims has prompted resentment and anguish amongst Muslims worldwide, who usually save for years to participate.
“The Saudi government wants to play it completely safe by barring foreign pilgrims for the second consecutive year,” Umar Karim, a visiting fellow at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute, advised AFP.
“But frustration is growing across the Muslim world that could raise questions about the kingdom’s role as the custodian of holy mosques and result in a reduction of its religious soft power.
“It additionally spells catastrophe for the hajj financial system worldwide.”
The hajj and year-round umrah pilgrimages are usually a key revenue earner for the kingdom, not to mention airlines and travel agencies.
In normal times, they together rake in some $12 billion (10.3 billion euros) annually, keeping the economy humming in Mecca.
But downsizing the rituals, which will run until Tuesday, the first day of post-Ramadan holidays, has hit government revenues and battered businesses that support hundreds of thousands of jobs in the holy city, from travel agents to street barbers and souvenir shops.
Mecca has seen a construction boom in recent years that added shopping malls, apartments and luxury hotels, some offering spectacular views of the sacred Kaaba.
But most premises have seen fewer customers since the pandemic.
“The Saudi authorities’s affirmation that the hajj pilgrimage shall be extraordinarily restricted this 12 months will weigh on the dominion’s financial restoration,” stated Capital Economics, a analysis consultancy.
“The authorities is clearly involved {that a} bigger hajj may spark a surge in Covid-19 instances and presumably threat importing new virus variants, which may power them to tighten restrictions that hurt the financial system.”

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