Saudi Arabia hosted its second annual hajj pilgrimage under covid-19 restrictions this week, limiting attendees to just 60,000 pilgrims. Only vaccinated people from inside Saudi Arabia were selected, a tiny fraction of the nearly 2.5 million pilgrims that attended in 2019.

Last year, the pilgrimage group downsized even more dramatically: Only 1,000 were allowed into Islam’s holiest site in Mecca and Medina to perform the hajj, a five-day rite each Muslim must perform at least once in a lifetime.

Here are some significant developments:

  • England on Monday lifted almost all of its remaining coronavirus restrictions, including an indoor mask mandate, even as new cases soared to some of the highest levels in months and several senior government officials — including Prime Minister Boris Johnson — were in quarantine.
  • An alternate for the U.S. women’s gymnastics team tested positive for the coronavirus Monday, in the first known case among Team USA athletes who traveled to Tokyo for the Olympic Games. Three South African soccer players also tested positive at Tokyo’s Olympic Village over the weekend.
  • Australian officials said Monday that they were extending a lockdown in Victoria state, including the city of Melbourne, after detecting more locally transmitted coronavirus cases. State Premier Daniel Andrews did not say how long the restrictions would be in force.
  • More than 80 percent of some 300 personnel aboard a South Korean destroyer in the Gulf of Aden have tested positive for the coronavirus, Reuters reported Monday, citing the country’s military leadership. Authorities sent aircraft to replace the crew, which was on an anti-piracy mission.
  • Iran’s government Monday announced a week-long lockdown in the capital, Tehran, and surrounding areas to halt the spread of a growing coronavirus outbreak officials have blamed on the more contagious delta variant.
  • Indonesia, facing what experts call a “catastrophic” coronavirus surge as the delta variant rips through hospitals, is now recording some of the highest daily case numbers in the world, outpacing global pandemic hot spots such as India and Brazil. On Monday, the Southeast Asian nation reported a record 1,338 new coronavirus deaths.

Residents of Saudi Arabia between the ages 18 and 65 who have been fully vaccinated or immunized against the virus and do not suffer from chronic diseases, were allowed to apply for the hajj pilgrimage through an online portal. More than half a million tried.

Images and videos from the pilgrimage showed just a handful of white- or black-clad individuals surrounding the Kaaba, a black cube-shaped building at the heart of the Grand Mosque around which pilgrims circumambulate.

In past years, the crowds poured out of every nook and cranny, a human sea of worshipers. This year, the comparatively low number of socially distanced pilgrims made their rounds according to colored lines laid on the cooled marble floor.

Masked Muslims stood on Mount Arafat on Monday, where pilgrims gather to pray and atone for their sins. Disinfectant-spraying and water-delivering robots were deployed around the cube-shaped Kaaba’s busiest walkways. Collaborating with the government’s artificial intelligence authority, Saudi Arabia is also testing a touch-screen smart bracelet coded with information on the hajj, pilgrim’s oxygen levels, vaccine data and an emergency call feature, the Associated Press reported.

Before the pandemic, more than 2 million pilgrims would flock to the hill, packed tightly together in the burning Saudi heat. The image of the spread-out pilgrims is shocking for those accustomed to the closely packed crowds.

Every year, fears of stampedes would abound as the government tries to organize the pilgrimage to prevent catastrophes like that of 2015, when a stampede left more than 700 dead, according to official numbers.

Heat stress poses an additional concern. For the duration of this year’s hajj, temperature predictions in the city of Mecca have been hovering around 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the afternoons. For Tuesday, midday weather predictions reach as high as 106 degrees.

Given the 20 to 30 hours spent outdoors over the five-day period of hajj — as well as humid airs blown inland from the Red Sea — experts have pointed out growing risks of heat-related illness, especially among elderly participants. A group of researchers have predicted that if climate change continues at its current trajectory, “aggressive adaptation measures” will be required.

“It would be strongly in the interest of the nations of Southwest Asia, and of other regions, to support aggressive efforts to rein in climate change to protect the Hajj … and the future of human habitability in their countries,” researchers Bob Henson and Jeff Masters wrote on July 15.

The Saudi Health Ministry said at a Monday news conference that no coronavirus cases have been detected among Hajj participants so far.

In recent weeks, Saudi Arabia has amped up its restrictions on travel outside the kingdom. On Monday, the Interior Ministry announced that Saudi citizens will need to have had two coronavirus vaccine doses before they can travel abroad, starting Aug. 9. The country has campaigned to encourage citizens and residents to take the vaccines, opening nearly 600 vaccination sites across the kingdom.

Earlier in the month, it barred travel to and entry from several countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Sammy Westfall and Claire Parker contributed to this report.