Saudi Arabia welcomed on Friday the first group of Hajj pilgrims, selected based on specific requirements, amid strict coronavirus preventative measures.
Hajj pilgrims arrive in Jeddah for this year's pilgrimage amid the coronavirus outbreak. (SPA / Twitter)
Masks are required at all times and temperature checks were mandatory at the hotel entrance, where the pilgrims lined up while maintaining a safe distance waiting their turns to enter.
The hotel, located in Mecca, is near the assembly meeting point that has been determined by the health ministry as the place where pilgrims will gather daily to be transported to the city’s holy sites starting on the first day of Hajj.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has implemented strict precautionary measures at the hotel to maintain the safety of the pilgrims including providing a separate room and hand sanitizers for each person, as well as enforcing social distancing rules.
Participants were required to isolate at home for seven days prior to arriving in Mecca, as part of the requirements to participate in the pilgrimage.
Those who live close enough to Mecca are not required to stay in the hotel but must remain isolated in their homes until the first day of Hajj as well.
Meanwhile, individuals who were infected with the virus, but have recovered, do not need to quarantine and will arrive in Mecca on a later date, closer to the first day of Hajj.
A small group of worshippers pray at the Holy Kaa'ba in the Grand Mosque while practising social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic, in the Holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, May 4, 2020. (SPA via Reuters)
In February, authorities in Saudi Arabia suspended entry for individuals going on the Umrah pilgrimage due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. In June, Kingdom authorities decided to allow a “limited Hajj” of about 1,000 people to take place.
Those selected are all residents in Saudi Arabia and are between 20 and 50 years old, according to the criteria required by authorities.
Priority was given to non-Saudis who do not have any pre-existing health conditions and have not previously performed the Hajj pilgrimage.
Only Saudi nationals who are healthcare workers or security forces and have recovered from the virus were also given a chance to perform Hajj this year as a way of showing appreciation for their efforts in fighting the COVID-19 crisis in the country.