Haj 2020: 936 people fined in Saudi Arabia for violating ban on holy sites

Cairo: Saudi authorities have caught a total of 936 people for violating a ban on entering holy sites without permits as the country enforces stringent measures during this year’s Haj that began on Wednesday.

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The violators have been exposed since the ban took effect on July 19 until Wednesday, according to a security official.

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“They have violated instructions on entering the holy sites. Legal procedures are being taken against them,” a spokesman for the Haj security force command said, according to the Saudi news agency SPA.

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On July 19, Saudi Arabia started prohibiting people without permits from entering the holy places in Mecca, Muzdalifah, Arafat and Mina under a strict security plan.

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The restriction remains in place until the end of Sunday to ensure a safe scaled-down Haj held amid COVID-19 fears.

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Violations are punishable by a fine of SR10,000 that will be doubled in case of repetition.

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SPA quoted the spokesman as urging Saudis and expatriate residents to abide by the Haj-related instructions. “Security men are imposing a tight lockdown on holy places to enforce instructions and catch violators,” he added.

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Last month, Saudi Arabia announced holding this year’s Haj with a very limited number, confined to Saudis and non-Saudis of all nationalities who are already residing in the kingdom.

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Saudi Arabia has announced that 70 per cent of this year’s pilgrims are expatriate residents while the remaining 30 per cent are Saudis. The expatriates wishing to perform this year’s Haj had to meet certain health conditions.

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They should not be sufferers of any chronic diseases, and provide a negative PCR test proving that they are free of coronavirus. The applicants should not have previously performed the Haj, should be aged between 20 to 50 years, and sign a pledge to adhering to the quarantine period before and after performing the Haj rituals.

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The 30 per cent of Saudi pilgrims are limited to Saudi health practitioners and security men who have recovered from COVID-19. They are selected from a database of recovered patients, in recognition of their role during the battle against the virus provided they meet the related health criteria.

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More than 2 million Muslims usually perform the Haj every year which is one of Islam’s five pillars. Muslims are expected to perform it at least once in their lives – if they can afford it and are physically able.

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