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WATCH - Hajj 2022: 12 health and security tips for Africans during the holy pilgrimage

This is the first Hajj season since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019-2020 in which foreign nationals residing outside of the kingdom will be permitted to participate. Picture: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

This is the first Hajj season since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019-2020 in which foreign nationals residing outside of the kingdom will be permitted to participate. Picture: Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

Published Jun 27, 2022

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Cape Town - One million people will be permitted to participate in the Hajj pilgrimage.

The Hajj is an annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest city for Muslims.

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Prior to the Covid pandemic, the total number of foreign pilgrims made up about 45.2% of the quota of pilgrims allocated to each country. South Africa has been granted a quota of 1 132 pilgrims, according to Salaamedia.com.

This is the first Hajj season since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019-2020 in which foreign nationals residing outside of the kingdom will be permitted to participate.

All pilgrims must present proof of vaccination status and a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure for the kingdom, says International SOS, the world’s leading health and security risk management services company.

Dr Olivier Barles, regional medical director at International SOS in Dubai, advises:

“Even if the Covid-19 pandemic seems to be under control, from end-May to early June a certain recurrence of new cases has been noticed in many countries worldwide, including in Saudi Arabia.

“Hence, even for those that have been fully vaccinated, pilgrims should continue to adhere to personal precautionary measures in order to best protect themselves from the potential threat all the Covid-19 variants. They are still advised to keep a safe distance between each other, to wear face masks and maintain a high degree of personal hygiene by washing hands frequently.”

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Barles stressed that it is also important to follow the regulations outlined by the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia and to pay attention to other known diseases prevalent in the region, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (Mers-CoV) that can be managed with practical attention to hygiene.

International SOS’ top advice for Hajj during Covid-19:

– Wear a face mask at all times and maintain a distance of at least two metres between yourself and others.

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– It is important to follow good hygiene measures including regularly washing your hands and immediately disposing of used masks and gloves safely.

– Ensure you comply fully with all government requirements.

– Ensure any health issues are stabilised. If you need any medication, pack enough for the trip, with some extra in case of delays.

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– Save emergency contacts on your mobile phone and make sure it is charged (police, ambulance, embassy and local contacts).

– Monitor the situation and remain abreast of the latest news and recommendations.

– Exercise heightened caution with regards to religious and cultural sensitivities, especially on social media platforms and respect all local legal, religious and cultural conventions at all times.

– Expect tighter security at transport hubs as well as increased traffic and congestion.

– If conducting the pilgrimage, comply with your Hajj operator’s instructions. There are set times for different operators, organised by Saudi Arabian authorities to minimise the potential for overcrowding. While completing your pilgrimage, be mindful of your belongings when moving throughout the crowds.

– Stay well hydrated to avoid heatstroke. Select safe food and beverages; use bottled water. Wash fruits and vegetables well. Ensure any meat is thoroughly cooked and avoid non-pasteurised dairy items.

– Pay attention to people who may look sick; again, keep your distance, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face.

– Avoid direct contact with animals, including camels. A potentially severe illness caused by another coronavirus, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (Mers-CoV), can be present in camels and their products.

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