Saudi monarch, King Salman bn Abdulazeez on Friday said this year’s hajj constituted greater challenge to the Saudi authorities as “double efforts” were required to prepare the ground for minimal number of participants amid COVID-19 pandemic.
King Salman revealed this after he was discharged a day earlier from hospital following gall bladder surgery.
Pilgrims from around the world could not perform the yearly rituals at the holy land, leaving only about 10,000 people who are resident in the kingdom, a shortfall of over 2 million people, considering the 2.5 million that participated in 2019.
“Holding the ritual in the shadow of this pandemic… required reducing the numbers of pilgrims, but it obliged various official agencies to put in double efforts,” 84-year-old King Salman said in a speech read out on state television by acting media minister Majid Al-Qasabi.
“The hajj this year was restricted to a very limited number of people from multiple nationalities, ensuring the ritual was completed despite the difficult circumstances,” he said.
Salman was discharged from a hospital in the capital Riyadh after more than a week following surgery to remove his gall bladder, the Royal Court said. The court said in a statement late Thursday the monarch, 84, left the King Faisal Specialist Hospital after a recovery.
King Salman was admitted to the hospital July 20 with inflammation of his gall bladder. A few days later, he was operated on. The procedure was described as a laparoscopic surgery – a low-risk procedure that usually involves only small incisions and a tiny camera to aid the surgeons’ work.
The gallbladder, a small, pouch-like organ near the liver that stores bile, can easily be removed and is not critical for life. Surgeons often take it out if it begins to bother a patient.
He was reported last week to have chaired a meeting via video from the hospital before his surgery. A video aired by state media at the time showed him reading and going through documents.
There has been much speculation about the health of King Salman, who has ruled oil-rich Saudi Arabia since 2015.
In 2017, he ceded most of his power to MBS, who is next in line to the throne.