Hajj 2024 health and safety measures for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia

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Guidelines for a safe Hajj pilgrimage

The annual Hajj pilgrimage, a global event attracting over 1.8 million participants last year, is scheduled to take place in Saudi Arabia from 14 to 19 June 2024.

Ensuring the health and safety of all pilgrims necessitates a focus on preventive measures.

Cases of meningococcal disease have been reported in travellers returning from Saudi Arabia, underscoring the importance of adhering to health requirements.

As reported by SOS Group of Companies, International SOS encourages organisations with employees participating in the Hajj to ensure their workforce is aware of essential precautions for a safe and healthy journey.

Aligned with the latest health and safety regulations established by the Saudi Arabian authorities, International SOS has developed comprehensive guidelines to ensure pilgrims’ health, security, and wellbeing.

The guidelines outline crucial pre-travel considerations, including newly implemented requirements.

Key aspects include official permit and vaccination requirements, heat mitigation strategies, and promoting vigilance and awareness of surroundings, particularly during crowd surges.

Health and vaccination requirements

Dr Nosa Aihie, Regional Medical Director, Middle East, at International SOS, emphasised the importance of adhering to vaccination requirements: “It is important for pilgrims to adhere to vaccination requirements listed by the government of Saudi Arabia to protect themselves and their peers from various infectious diseases.

“This includes the required vaccination against meningitis administered no more than three years and at least ten days prior to the planned arrival in Saudi Arabia.

“In line with this, pilgrims are advised to carry valid health certificates stating they are free from any acute, chronic or infectious diseases.

“Furthermore, we suggest scheduling activities to avoid peak heat hours whenever possible and being adequately hydrated during Hajj, as pilgrims may experience heat-related illnesses and dehydration.”

The guidelines also advise that all routine vaccinations, including COVID-19 and seasonal influenza, should be up to date.

Depending on the country of origin, travellers may need to show proof of polio and yellow fever vaccination.

Registration on the ‘Sehaty’ app is mandatory to verify vaccination status and facilitate entry into the country for all pilgrims.

Safety measures and crowd management

Gulnaz Ukassova, Security Director at International SOS in Dubai, stressed the need for thorough pre-travel preparation and compliance with government directives: “It is vital for pilgrims undertaking Hajj to thoroughly understand and comply with the relevant Hajj regulations prior to, and during, the pilgrimage.

“Pilgrims should expect large crowds at religious sites, particularly on the Jamaarat Bridge in Mina and around Al-Masjid Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca.

“Remain safe during crowd surges by staying alert to surroundings, adhering to designated lanes, avoiding walking against the direction of traffic and knowing the nearest emergency exits and evacuation routes.

“Pilgrims should also account for potential travel disruption and increased demand for various services during this period.”

The guidelines encourage organisations to offer security briefings and heightened situational awareness practices for their employees.

These include pre-departure briefings on security protocols, situational awareness practices, and cultural sensitivities.

Developing contingency plans to address potential travel disruptions during the Hajj is also recommended.

Managing extreme temperatures

Extreme temperatures are a notable risk during Hajj.

Pilgrims are advised to prioritise staying hydrated and to choose lightweight and light-coloured clothing to help regulate body temperature and reduce heat stress.

Ensuring pilgrims are educated on the risks of extreme temperatures is crucial to prevent heat-related illnesses.

Employers are urged to provide employees with a crowd management guide containing tips for navigating densely populated areas.

Pilgrims should save emergency contact information for police, ambulance services, embassy officials, and local contacts on their mobile phones for immediate assistance if needed.

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