A study conducted by an international research team, headed by Umm Al-Qura University Vice President for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Dr. Ali Al-Sha`iri, found that the step the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah took to limit the number of pilgrims in the Hajj season 1442 A.H. to 60 thousand pilgrims contributed to curbing the coronavirus and reducing its spread to less than 3%. Such a step maintains the safety of the pilgrims, emphasizing that the allowed total capacity of the crowds and raising the precautionary measures to the highest level are closely related to reducing the spread of the COVID-19 infection.
The study focused on the use of artificial intelligence concepts that include modeling and simulating Hajj rituals with the potential spread of COVID-19 and assessing the impact of control and preventive measures on the development of infection in Hajj. This is performed in the context of serving the Sacred House of Allah and organizing crowd management in the rituals of Hajj and Umrah, in line with the technical advancements in dealing with the developments in the spread of the virus.
The research team from Umm Al-Qura University, United Arab Emirates University, Ohio University and the Indian Institute of Science studied a real-time mechanism to follow up on crowd management and the early warnings of risks by simulating reality. In this endeavor, they developed predictive simulation models in the various cases of the Tawaf and Jamarat rituals, taking into account the spatial constraints, the flow of crowd movement, and the preventive measures represented in checking for symptoms of infection while applying social distancing and the wearing of face masks. The aim of this is to assess the effect of precautionary measures on the rate of the spread of the infection and assist in making decisions to reduce the spread.
Dr. Ali Al-Sha`iri stated that the study assesses risk situations that negatively affect the safety of crowds using an indicator based on a simulation model to predict potential risks and then informing decision makers of such risks early before they occur. This contributes to finding logical solutions to raise the efficiency of crowd management and improve the services provided during the Hajj and Umrah seasons. Consequently, the objectives of the Saudi Vision realized in the program of "Serving the Pilgrims" will be achieved to reach 30 million pilgrims each year.
It is noteworthy that the research project recently achieved a victory at the level of the Saudi Kingdom in the stream of "Projects for Pilgrim Crowd Management". This comes within the international cooperation initiative in research and development launched by the Ministry of Education to support universities to cooperate with external partners from international universities in the scientific research system. Moreover, the outputs of this research have been published in international scientific journals.