Video: Mecca from the skies on the first day of Ramadan amid coronavirus restrictions

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The Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s Mecca was largely empty of worshippers on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan on Friday as authorities closed the holy site as part of measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

In comments made a day earlier, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said he was pained that the holy month arrived amid difficult circumstances due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am pained that the holy month arrives amid circumstances that make us unable to perform group prayers and Taraweeh at mosques due to precautionary measures to protect the peoples’ lives and health in combating the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

Night and Taraweeh prayers from inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca on the first evening of Ramadan on Thursday were restricted to clerics, security staff and cleaners, according to footage broadcast live on television.

Earlier on Thursday, authorities in Saudi Arabia removed the protective barriers around the holy Kaaba that were erected earlier last month as a precautionary measure. Over 3,500 workers are currently working around the clock to sterilize the Grand Mosque and its outer yards during the month of Ramadan.

Earlier on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman approved a reduced version of the special nighttime Taraweeh prayers performed at the Grand Mosque in Mecca and Prophet’s Mosque in Medina while still suspending the public from praying within the grounds during Ramadan.

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