Dramatic Photos Show Scaled-Down Hajj Pilgrimage Due To Coronavirus
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Under normal circumstances, there are usually around 2.5 million pilgrims that visit the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina for Hajj but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the government has barred Muslims from abroad:
This means that there are as little as 1,000 people taking part in the gathering - that are already living in Saudi Arabia - in a bid to control the spread of the virus.
The week-long ritual is a once-in-a-life duty for every able-bodied Muslim that can afford to go which is why there were so many people in previous years.
Visitors would complete the Hajj standing shoulder to shoulder, parents would be carrying children on their backs and others would push their parents or elderly relatives in wheelchairs.
However this year - for the first time in Saudi history - the government barred Muslims from entering the kingdom from abroad to perform the Hajj.
According to Sky News, the pilgrims were selected after applying through an online portal and were required to be between the ages of 20 and 50, with no terminal illnesses and showing no symptoms of the virus. Preference was also given to those who had not performed the Hajj before.
They were tested for coronavirus and given wristbands that connected to their phones to monitor any movement and had to isolate at home and in their hotel rooms in Mecca before the start of the journey.
They will also have to quarantine for a week after the Hajj concludes on Sunday (2 August).
Emirati pilgrim Abdullah al-Kathiri said in a video released by the Saudi media ministry: "I did not expect, among millions of Muslims, to be blessed with approval. It is an indescribable feeling... especially since it is my first pilgrimage."
Kehinde Qasim Yusuf, an Australian pilgrim at this year's Hajj added: "This is a very special situation we find ourselves in. We also have the privilege to perform Hajj on behalf of the entire Muslim world."
Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Benten, the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, said: "Hajj in 2020 is a truly exceptional pilgrimage by all measures.
"Due to the exceptional global health circumstances caused by the coronavirus pandemic, strict precautionary measures have been applied to ensure a healthy Hajj for all pilgrims."