Singaporean husband and wife among 10,000 haj pilgrims this year
Saudi-based couple among the limited number of pilgrims chosen as the Middle East nation imposes restrictions due to pandemic
There are usually around 2.5 million Muslims from around the world who make the pilgrimage annually, but only 10,000 residents of Saudi Arabia can perform the haj this year due to the pandemic.
Saudi-based Singaporeans Mr Deky Zulkarnine Badrom, and his wife, Ms Tuty Suharti, were among the 10,000 selected, and this will be the couple's first time performing the haj. Mr Deky, 44, an operation supervisor in the petrochemical industry, told The New Paper they are "humbled to be among the selected few".
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in Saudi Arabia announced last month that this year's haj would welcome a limited number of pilgrims from all nationalities residing in the kingdom to prevent the spread of Covid-19. As of yesterday, the number of infections in the country stood at 270,831 with 2,789 deaths.
Ms Suharti, 42, a housewife, said all pilgrims had to serve a four-day quarantine in individual hotel rooms and wear an electronic bracelet connected to their phones, which would trigger an alert if someone went beyond boundaries.
All pilgrims also underwent a Covid-19 swab test at home before the quarantine.
The costs of meals, hotel accommodation, transportation and healthcare are covered by the Saudi government.
The couple, who have two sons aged nine and 14, started their five-day haj at 9am yesterday and they will complete it on Sunday.
Ms Suharti said pilgrims were required to bring their own prayer mats and pray at a distance from one another instead of shoulder to shoulder. Face masks would have to be on at all times.
The haj, which all able-bodied Muslims must perform at least once in their lifetime, corresponds with the Islamic holy day Eid al-Adha, or Hari Raya Haji, which falls tomorrow.
Chairman of Singapore Mosque Korban Committee Sharifuddin Mohammed Ali told TNP the Korban ritual that involves slaughtering of livestock, will be done differently this year.
He said 42 mosques have made arrangements for it to be done in Australia, with the meat chilled and shipped here.
The mosques will partner with individual vendors licensed by the Singapore Food Agency to import meat products, he added. About a third to two-thirds of the meat will be distributed to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore's Zakat beneficiaries.
Mr Sharifuddin said: "Mosques will facilitate contactless deliveries to minimise contact and interactions. During this process, all participating mosques will adopt standard operating procedures, observe high hygiene standards, stagger distribution and collection slots and adhere to prevailing safety measures aligned to national guidelines."