An aerial view of Kaaba at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia 12 August 2019.
An aerial view of Kaaba at the Grand mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia 12 August 2019.Reuters/Umit Bektas

Saudi Arabia announced health protocols to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in the 2020 hajj season, banning gatherings and meetings between pilgrims, the state news agency said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia decided in June to limit the number of domestic pilgrims attending the hajj to around 1,000 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after barring Muslims abroad from the rite for the first year in modern times.

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Touching the Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam, will be banned during the halj this year, and a social distancing space of a meter and a half between each pilgrim during the rituals including mass prayers and while in the Kaaba circling area will be imposed, a statement by the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) elaborated.

Also, access to holy haj sites at Mona, Muzdalifah and Arafat will be limited to those with hajj permits starting Sunday 19 July till 2 August 2020, and wearing masks all the time will be mandatory for both pilgrims and organisers.