Saudis threaten hefty fines for hajj trespassers

As Saudi Arabia grapples with how to host the hajj amid the coronavirus pandemic, the kingdom announced anyone entering the holy sites without a permit will be fined.

The Ministry of Interior said fines of 10,000 riyals ($2,666) will be issued to those who trespass onto the hajj sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat, Arab News reported. Repeat offenders will be fined twice as much.

The yearly pilgrimage typically draws some 2 million people from around the world.

The Saudi government announced last week that only 1,000 people would be permitted to attend the week-long ritual this year, which is expected to begin July 28.

Religious authorities are processing the requests of pilgrims from 160 countries, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Sunday. Approved worshippers will consist of 70% non-Saudi residents and 30% Saudi citizens. Pilgrims traveling from abroad will not be allowed to participate.

All who attend will be required to wear face masks, and social distancing will be enforced during mass prayers. Touching or kissing the sacred Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, will be forbidden.

With 20 new deaths on Monday, the country registered its lowest daily fatality rate in two weeks. Health authorities reported a total of 235,111 cases and a death toll of 2,243. – Al-Monitor.

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