No one attending this year’s scaled-back Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia has contracted Covid-19 so far, the country’s health ministry said Saturday.
The Muslim ritual, which started on Tuesday and ends on Sunday, normally hosts more than 2 million people, but after the coronavirus outbreak, Saudi authorities were forced to ban international visitors wishing to perform Hajj this year.
The Kingdom started preparing for the scaled down Hajj in February and after selecting 1,000 pilgrims – Saudis and foreign residents in the country, between the ages of 20 and 50 – enforced a 14-day pre-Hajj quarantine, tested them, provided trainings on social distancing and monitored the pilgrims, Dr. Abdullah Assiri, assistant deputy minister for preventative health at the Saudi Ministry of Health, told CNN in an interview on Wednesday.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, congratulated Saudi Arabia Thursday for the steps it took, calling it a “powerful demonstration of the kinds of measures that countries can – and must – take to adapt to the new normal.”
According to the Saudi health ministry, the kingdom registered 1,573 new coronavirus cases and 21 deaths on Saturday.
Saudi Arabia has the highest number of cases in the Arab world with 277,478 infections, according to the ministry’s latest tally.