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Watch: How has the Hajj pilgrimage changed amid the coronavirus pandemic?

This year has marked a significant change in the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that represents one of the five pillars of Islam.

The pilgrimage or Hajj went ahead as planned, but with strict restrictions to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

The five-day rite is an important requirement of Islam and must be performed once in a lifetime if you have the means. It follows a route the Prophet Muhammad walked nearly 1,400 years ago.

“Saudi authorities are aware of the highly significant stature of Hajj and they pride themselves in being the custodian of the two holy sites,” Bader​ Al‑Saif, a non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Centre, told Dailyrater.

“Due to that and because the current pandemic is one that can be managed if health precautions are put in place, they decided to go ahead with a scaled-down Hajj.”

Scaling down meant that pilgrims had to quarantine and be tested for the virus. They wore masks as they performed the Hajj rituals. Thousands were able to attend instead of millions.

Saudi Arabia has one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the Middle East with more than 274,000 cases and over 2,800 deaths.

Muslims around the world were advised to continue social distancing for the important festival Eid-al-Adha.

The World Health Organization put out a guide for how to celebrate the festival, which is taking place on July 31 this year.

It gives advice on safe practices for religious gatherings and giving to the poor during the pandemic.

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