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Saudis Announce July 29 Start to Scaled-back ‘Hajj’

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have announced that this year’s hajj pilgrimage to Mecca will get underway on July 29 and be limited to just 1,000 people already in the kingdom, which closed its borders to foreigners months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic. The annual event for devout Muslims usually attracts some 2.5 million people, about 80% of them from abroad. This year, according to officials who oversee the hajj, the only participants will be medical personnel and others who are fully recovered after having been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. They will be required to undergo testing for infection before their departure for Mecca, and will have to enter 14 days of quarantine upon their return home. Mecca’s holy sites have been closed to everyone, including local residents, for several months, with Saudi authorities having blocked foreigners from arriving for the year-round umrah pilgrimage in late February. It is estimated that together, the hajj and the umrah pour some $12 billion into the kingdom’s coffers.