This image shows the partial re-opening of the area around the sacred Kaaba (Tawaf al-Wadaa) in Mecca on March 7, after Saudi Arabia had closed off the area in measures designed to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The top half of the image shows the area around the sacred Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque on Saturday, with a relatively small crowd gathered around a barrier that still keeps a cordon around the Kaaba. The bottom half compares this image with one taken on August 13 2019, during pilgrimage, that sees a huge crowd gathered.
In light of the coronavirus spreading, Saudi authorities had taken action to help prevent further cases, in line with much of the rest of the world, by limiting public gatherings.
The action was taken to “limit the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic and prevent its access to the Two Holy Mosques, which are witnessing a permanent and intense flow of human crowds, which makes the issue of securing these crowds of utmost importance,” the Saudi government said.
With over 3000 cases of Covid-19 in the Middle East, authorities are working to limit its spread.
In the UAE a number of concerts and festivals were cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus including Ultra Abu Dhabi, Taste Dubai and Club Social, where Liam Gallagher was due to perform.
In Saudi, part of these plans was to suspend the year-round umrah pilgrimages in which worshippers circle the Kaaba seven times. There was also a temporary closure of the area around the Kaaba itself.
Last year, the umrah pilgrimages drew 7.5 million foreigners alone. Millions more attend the annual hajj. This year it’s set to run between July and early August.
The Saudi government said that the ban is temporary but there is no end date set as yet.