Officials praise successful return of Hajj after Covid-19 pandemic

Many pilgrims have completed their rituals after two years of coronavirus restrictions

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Pilgrims performed the farewell Tawaf on Monday in an initial wrapping up of a successful Hajj season, as many lauded the efforts of the Saudi government in ensuring a safe and efficient pilgrimage.

In 2020 and 2021, Hajj was restricted to Saudi Arabia residents only due to Covid-19, and limited to 60,000 pilgrims, compared with pre-pandemic numbers of 2.5 million.

This year, with the lifting of most of Covid-19 restrictions, Saudi Arabia has welcomed nearly one million domestic and foreign pilgrims.

Hajj operations at the holy sites have been overseen by Prince Khaled Al Faisal, the governor of Makkah, and Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud. A number of agencies, including security authorities and health workers, have also been involved in providing all the services that pilgrims might had required.

Fahd Al Jalajel, Saudi Arabia's Minister of Health, on Monday confirmed that this year's Hajj was free from any outbreaks or public health issues.

“I am pleased to announce the success of Hajj plans for this year 1443AH at all levels of security, service and health without recording any accidents or epidemic diseases among the pilgrims,” he said.

The minister said the Saudi Red Crescent had provided flying ambulance services for 17 of 38 Covid-19 cases recorded, which were treated in accordance with health protocols.

The governor followed suit by confirming the absence of health-related problems and congratulated King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for the material support, development projects and teams provided by the government in service of the pilgrims.

The Ministry of Health said 97,262 pilgrims had received treatment in hospitals or health centres in Makkah, Arafat, Muzdalifah, Mina and Jamarat, up to Sunday.

The ministry announced that the Seha Virtual Hospital SVH Riyadh had provided excellent services, and more than 1,700 pilgrims had benefited from virtual medical consultation through the Sehaty app.

The app contributed to the diagnosis of four cases of stroke, completed the analysis of six remote X-rays and helped to save the life of a complex case that required remote critical care service.

Hamad Al Otaibi, Makkah Health Affairs representative, on Monday said government efforts had ensured “a safe and healthy Hajj season”.

“Thank God we saw the successful return of the Hajj season with nearly one million pilgrims and we rest assured that we will see that capacity expanded in the years to come as we saw that a successful, safe and healthy Hajj season can be held in these circumstances,” he said.

Mr Al Otaibi said 23 medical sites — spread across Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa and including major hospitals, clinics and emergency units — were set up to ensure that pilgrims had continuous access to the 25,000 medical practitioners who worked during this Hajj season.

None were more grateful of the government's efforts than the guides who were able to attend and supervise this year's Hajj. The general supervisor of the Hajj team responsible for guiding pilgrims from Indonesia, Adnan Mandoura, thanked King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed for their guidance.

“It is with gratitude that we thank the sponsors of the custodians for their efforts in the service of the pilgrims,” he said.

“Our team was working hard, minute-by-minute and not just by the hour, to make sure our guests are satisfied. There was a void of not hosting our honoured guests from outside of the kingdom the past two years, but we were able to welcome them back this year.”

Regional praise

Bahrain's King Hamad Al Khalifa and Crown Prince Salman Al Khalifa also congratulated King Salman on a successful Hajj pilgrimage. King Hamad commended the effort of Saudi Arabia in holding a Hajj pilgrimage while enforcing Covid-19 precautionary measures.

Nayef Al Hajraf, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, also praised the efforts of the Saudi government in serving the holy sites and Hajj pilgrims, and congratulated the kingdom on organising a successful Hajj season.

He also reserved a special mention for those who worked during Hajj within the many sectors that oversaw the organisation of this year’s pilgrimage.

Egypt's Grand Mufti Shawki Allam valued the kingdom's efforts and the great steps it has taken in providing pilgrims with advanced technological services.

His comments came in a statement after his meeting with the Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dr Abdul Latif bin Al Sheikh, on the first day of Tashreeq, at the Ministry's headquarters in Mina.

Muslims around the world celebrated Eid Al Adha on Saturday as pilgrims in Saudi Arabia began performing the final rituals of Hajj.

Updated: July 11, 2022, 2:02 PM