During the virus edition of the hajj that begins on Wednesday, the black stone is off limits. Authorities in Saudi Arabia are issuing bottled water from the Zamzam well instead of letting pilgrims drink from cups at the source. Also in the pilgrim packages: sterilized pebbles to hurl at the devil, personal prayer rugs and other items intended to prevent an outbreak from marring the hajj.
But the chief public health measure the Saudi government has taken is to limit attendance, shrinking one of the world’s most famous crowds to a select few. About 2.5 million Muslims from around the world performed the hajj last year; this year, Saudi Arabia said it would allow just 1,000 pilgrims, all of them from within the kingdom, though it has not released the final number.
Across the Middle East, celebrations for Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice that marks the end of the hajj this weekend, will likewise be paler this year.
In Oman and Bahrain, where the unchecked spread of the virus among low-paid foreign laborers living in crowded conditions has contributed to two of the world’s worst outbreaks, officials have urged residents to forgo the large celebrations that usually mark Eid, and Oman has reinstituted a domestic travel ban and curfew. In Egypt, new cases have fallen as the country resumes normal life, but a live broadcast will replace communal Eid prayers.
In the United Arab Emirates, where it is common for residents to buy sheep or other livestock to sacrifice and donate during Eid, the authorities were encouraging people to use apps to reduce crowding at slaughterhouses and markets.
Countries across the region are reopening despite lingering hot spots. While Persian Gulf countries including Oman and Bahrain continue to struggle with large outbreaks, smaller ones in Yemen and Syria — where years of war have decimated health care systems and mired the population in deepening poverty — are rapidly metastasizing.
Here are other developments from around the globe:
Spain’s prime minister said that Britain had made “an error” by imposing a quarantine on everyone arriving from his country, a decision that blindsided British vacationers and dealt another blow to Spain’s tourism industry. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, in an interview with the news outlet Telecinco on Monday, said that Britain should have taken into account the regional divergences in Spain’s coronavirus cases and not issued a blanket order.
Data released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization on Tuesday showed that leisure travel fell by 98 percent during the first five months of the year, compared with 2019. The group said that globally 300 million fewer people traveled, representing a loss of $320 billion for the tourism industry.
Vietnam suspended domestic flights into and out of the tourist destination of Danang for 15 days after discovering at least 14 coronavirus cases, according to Reuters. International travel was halted months ago, but domestic tourists still traveled to Danang, a coastal city. About 80,000 people, mostly tourists, were ordered to evacuate on Monday after the discovery of the country’s first local transmissions in 100 days.
China recorded 68 new virus infections on Monday, its National Health Commission said on Tuesday, including six in Liaoning Province and 57 in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, where a flare-up since mid-July has shown little sign of abating. As China battles the surge, the authorities in the northeastern port city of Dalian, in Liaoning, have said they will test all 6 million residents after an outbreak. Samples have been collected from about 1.68 million Dalian residents as of Sunday night, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, closed all bars and banned the sale of alcoholic drinks in restaurants for 30 days to try to curb the spread of the virus. In a speech Monday, Mr. Kenyatta said recent reopening measures had given “some Kenyans false comfort that this is not a serious health risk to them and their families.”
The Venice Film Festival announced the lineup on Tuesday for its 77th edition, setting out precautions including temperature checks and new outdoor screening sites for one of the first large international festivals held since the pandemic began. It will run from Sept. 2 to Sept 12, with a reduced schedule. Between 55 and 60 films will be screened, as opposed to last year’s 80.
Aleksandr Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, who is facing an election next month and has been criticized for allowing the coronavirus to spread in his country while he denied and downplayed the danger, said Tuesday at a gathering of security services officers that he had contracted the virus but showed no symptoms.
To lure back passengers, Emirates airline is tossing in health insurance with its tickets. Funeral insurance, too.
Airlines are trying all sorts of things — from leaving middle seats empty, to requiring everyone to wear masks, to health checks at terminals — to instill confidence in passengers who may be leery of air travel.