Amidst the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has announced that Hajj 2020 will go on but with some limitations. These limitations will see a cut in the numbers of pilgrims. Only those residing in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) will be able to attend the pilgrimage.
Reportedly, the total number of Hajj pilgrims is said to be more or less 1,000. According to Saudi authorities, social distancing measures will be implemented to ensure safety of the pilgrims and to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Restricting International Pilgrims Due To Global Health Risks
The pandemic has spread to more than 185 countries, infecting over 9 million and killing 477,000 people around the world. Saudi Ministry of Health has decided to restrict Hajj 2020 in accordance with the current situation. Major human life risks can stem from this pandemic due to the lack of cure or vaccine for the infectants.
KSA has a major responsibility in enabling Muslims to perform Hajj and Umrah safely. According to Saudi authorities, this decision was important to preserve the security of global public health as the cases continue to increase in most countries.
What Kind Of Pilgrims Are Not Allowed?
It is reported that people over the age of 65 are not allowed to perform Hajj 2020. Those who have chronic diseases will also be disallowed to perform Hajj this year. Moreover, every pilgrim will be tested before arriving at the holy sites.
Is KSA Capable Of Ensuring Safety Of Pilgrims?
Experienced staff and apt technical capabilities are required to serve the pilgrims and preserve public health. Saudi Health Minister claims that KSA is ready to protect pilgrims from the spread of virus. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah will enforce mandatory isolation practices before and after the pilgrimage.
The holy sites will have an integrated hospital. There will also be a health center in Arafat (granite hill in central Mecca) in case an emergency occurs during Hajj 2020. A group of trained medical specialists will stay with pilgrims throughout the journey.
Muslim World Criticizing This Decision
This decision has received many critical remarks from international Islamic organizations. It comes after lengthy speculation on whether KSA will allow or restrict Hajj 2020. It is unclear why KSA waited until only five weeks before the Hajj to make a decision. The sensitivity surrounding this major decision of allowing only 1000 pilgrims, affects almost 2 billion Muslims all over the world. Many have argued that it would be better to scrap the idea of performing Hajj at all if KSA was not capable of protecting the maximum number of pilgrims. That would have saved many people from feeling discriminated and furious at the Saudi Government.
Well, the criticism seems baseless since millions of people visit Saudi Arabia every year for Hajj. On the eve of Hajj 2018 two million Muslims had gathered at Arafa for the Hajj ritual. Given current circumstances when the world is fighting a pandemic, such level of mass gathering can pose a greater danger, since the virus is highly contagious. The decision may not have go well with people who intended to perform Hajj 2020 but it seems prudent enough.