Deccan Chronicle

This year, Hajj pilgrims to be given sterilised pebbles

Saudi authorities initially said only around 1,000 pilgrims residing in the kingdom would be permitted for Hajj but local media reports say as many as 10,000 will be allowed. Around 2.5 million believers attended last year's pilgrimage according to records. (AP)

The foreign press is barred from this year's Hajj, usually a huge global media event, as the government tightens access to the holy city of Mecca and puts in place strict health restrictions to prevent a virus outbreak during the five-day pilgrimage. (Saudi Ministry of Media via AP)

Mask-clad pilgrims began trickling into Mecca over the weekend and were subject to temperature checks and placed in quarantine, authorities said. Pilgrims are required to be tested for coronavirus before arriving in Mecca and will also have to quarantine after the pilgrimage. (Saudi Ministry of Media via AP)

Pilgrims are given elaborate amenity kits that include sterilised pebbles for a stoning ritual, disinfectants, masks, a prayer rug and the ihram, a seamless white garment worn by pilgrims, according to a Hajj ministry programme document. (Handout picture provided by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umra/AFP)

The Hajj ministry said it has set up multiple health facilities, mobile clinics and ambulances to cater to the pilgrims, who will be required to observe social distancing. (Handout picture provided by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umra/AFP)

The government scaled back the pilgrimage as it could be a major source of contagion, but the move will deepen the kingdom's economic slump, analysts say. (AFP)

The virus has also battered pilgrimage-reliant businesses that support hundreds of thousands of jobs in Mecca, from travel agents to street barbers and souvenir shops. Many have reported sweeping layoffs, pay cuts or delayed salaries. (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 260,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, while the number of declared global infections exceeded 16 million on Sunday. (Saudi Ministry of Media via AP)

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