Saudi Arabia will evaluate this year’s extraordinary Hajj season which was held amid heightened security and strict coronavirus-related restrictions over the next two weeks, Dr. Hussein al-Sharif, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah for Hajj Affairs told local media on Monday.
He added that the ministry will compile the lessons learned from the health procedures and logistics of organizing this year’s Hajj pilgrimage during the COVID-19 pandemic and “start preparations for the next Umrah season,” according to Saudi's Okaz newspaper.
In late February, Saudi Arabia suspended entry for individuals seeking to perform Umrah pilgrimage in Mecca or visiting the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, as part of the measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
On March 4, the Kingdom also suspended Umrah for its citizens and residents.
Umrah is a pilgrimage to Mecca. However, unlike Hajj, it is not mandatory, can be completed within a few hours, and can be performed year-round.
Hajj 2020 success
This year’s Hajj pilgrims concluded all rituals on Sunday.
Watch: Hajj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia perform the final “tawaf,” or circumambulation ritual – when Muslims walk around the Kaaba seven times – as the final day of this year's Hajj nears completion under strict coronavirus precautionary measures.https://t.co/PgiH6QlzuE pic.twitter.com/PfGyWq0F9e— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) August 2, 2020
The President General of Two Holy Mosques Affairs Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Abdulaziz al-Sudais announced on Sunday the success of this year’s Hajj season and the authorities plan to safeguard the pilgrims and ensure the adherence to strict health precautions necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to state news agency SPA.
The Kingdom’s Ministry of Health announced that no pilgrims tested positive for the coronavirus and the security forces confirmed that no one was able to enter the Holy sites in Mecca and Medina without an official permit during the period of Hajj.
Saudi Arabia’s authorities allowed only 10,000 residents of the Kingdom from different nationalities to perform Hajj this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime. Approximately, 2.5 million pilgrims typically visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long Hajj.