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Immunized pilgrims gather for haj as COVID restrictions limit numbers By Reuters

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© Reuters. Pigeons are seen flying as a man walks towards the Grand Mosque during the annual pilgrimage Haj, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on July 17, 2021. Saudi Ministry of Media / Document via REUTERS

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MECCA, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Muslim pilgrims vaccinated against COVID-19 gathered on Sunday for the annual haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, which has banned believers from abroad for a second year in a row due to the pandemic and he also limited entry from the inner kingdom.

Dressed in white and carrying umbrellas against the summer sun, 60,000 Saudi citizens and residents perform the rite, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, compared to about 2.5 million in the United States. 2019.

“Asking God to end the coronavirus made us very scared and made the situation very difficult,” said Palestinian pilgrim Hassan Jabari.

Saudi Arabia, which last year allowed a few thousand to perform the haj, is home to Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, and the country is committed to ensuring a peaceful haj, which has been unbalanced in the past by deadly stampedes, fires and riots.

With coronavirus the main concern this year, authorities have restricted access to pilgrims aged 18 to 65 who have been vaccinated or vaccinated against the virus and who do not suffer from chronic diseases.

The robots are used to disinfect the Grand Mosque of Mecca and its court and also to distribute zamzam water bottles, pumped from a holy well in Mecca, to reduce human interaction and ensure physical distance.

Thermal cameras at the entrances to the Grand Mosque monitor people’s temperatures. About 3,000 electric carts have been set aside for pilgrims, who also carry electronic identification bracelets connected to the GPS.

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As of Saturday, small groups of pilgrims wearing masks revolve around the Kaaba – a stone structure that is the holiest in Islam and the direction Muslims take to pray – while health professionals monitor their movements. .

Afterwards, the pilgrims made their way to Mina, 7 km northeast of the Great Mosque of Mecca, where they will spend the day in prayer before going to Mount Arafat, where the Prophet Muhammad gave his last sermon.

About 500 health volunteers are available to offer medical care and 62 screens have been installed to convey awareness messages in different languages.

Over the years, the kingdom has spent billions of dollars to make one of the world’s largest religious gatherings safer. It is a major source of income for Saudi Arabia from accommodation, transportation, taxes and gifts from worshipers.

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