Hajj to Return to Pre-COVID Attendance

Image copyright: Reuters [via BBC]

The Facts

  • During the opening ceremony of the Expo Hajj on Monday, the Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, announced that the kingdom is planning for the Hajj to return to pre-pandemic attendance this year. The Expo Hajj is a four-day conference that previews services that Saudi Arabia will offer for the upcoming pilgrimages.

  • The Hajj, a religious pilgrimage required of every able-bodied Muslim at least once in their life, brings the world's largest gathering to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia where pilgrims pray five times a day toward the Kaaba.

The Spin

Narrative A

Since the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has taken COVID mitigation measures seriously to support the safety of pilgrims. Each year, the kingdom successfully increased the number of pilgrims in attendance while effectively monitoring the public health status of the site. The new policy this year is built on a successful and safe series of public health measures to maximize the experience for those undertaking this holy pilgrimage.

Narrative B

Though very few Muslims criticized the Saudi government's decision to curtail the number of pilgrims during the COVID pandemic, the highly restrictive measures had a devastating impact on those who missed out. Hopefully, the reopening process will be more accessible than ever so those who couldn't go in the past can make it now.

Narrative C

"Spillover" of animal disease to humans is inevitable, but we must stop our future from turning into an era of constant pandemics. Mass gatherings like the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia increase the odds of super-spreader events. All nations of the world must use the tools of epidemiology — disease surveillance, quarantines, testing, vaccines, and transparent reporting — to ensure the pandemic disruption of the past few years doesn't become our "new normal."

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