Just 10,000 worshippers allowed to perform pilgrimage this year due to coronavirus
Abu Dhabi: A senior Saudi official said any motorist caught transporting illegal pilgrims will risk 15 days imprisonment, a fine of up to 10,000 riyals for each breaching worshipper being carried and deportation. Saudi authorities said anyone caught violating coronavirus restrictions on this year’s Hajj will be hit with the huge penalty.
“An expat driver will be deported after serving the penalty and will be prohibited from entering Saudi Arabia. The vehicle used will be confiscated by a court ruling,” said Major General Khaled bin Fahhad Al Juaid, commander of the Hajj Police and Passport Forces.
Major General Al Juaid added if the offence is repeated the offenders will face a jail time of up to six months and a fine of up to SR50,000 for each illegal pilgrims transported.
The penalty applies to those who attend Hajj, which is expected to begin on July 28, without a state-allocated permit.
An interior ministry official told Saudi Arabia’s official news agency that anyone apprehended without a permit at Mina, Muzdalifah or Arafat, the main Hajj sites, would be fined, and the amount would double for repeat offenders.
Security forces will seal off the areas and patrol the grounds to prevent “violations, monitor entry and mete punishment to all the violators”.
Last week, the government announced that only 10,000 people would be allowed to perform Hajj this year, as coronavirus cases in the kingdom continue to surge.
Attendance from abroad has been banned, and those present at Hajj will comprise 70 per cent residents and 30 per cent citizens, with healthcare employees given priority.
Under new Hajj measures unveiled last week, everyone from workers to worshippers will be required to wear masks.
Mass prayers will take place in compliance with social-distancing rules, and those suspected of being infected with the virus will be isolated but allowed to finish the ritual.