Saudi Arabia announced Saturday it will allow 60,000 residents vaccinated against Covid to perform this year’s hajj, but Muslims from abroad will be barred for a second straight year.
The Hajj ministry said this year’s pilgrimage would be “open for nationals and residents of the kingdom, limited to 60,000 pilgrims”, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. “Those wishing to perform the Hajj must be free of chronic diseases and be vaccinated” and between the ages of 18 and 65, it said.
The kingdom has also said that from August 1, vaccinations would be mandatory to enter government and private establishments, including education institutions and entertainment venues, as well as to use public transport.
“In light of what the whole world is witnessing with the coronavirus pandemic. and the emergence of new variants, the relevant authorities have continued to monitor the global health situation,” the ministry said.
Only up to 10,000 Muslims took part in the Hajj last year, a far cry from the 2.5 million who participated in the five-day annual pilgrimage in 2019.
In a relaxation of coronavirus curbs last October, Saudi Arabia opened the Grand Mosque for prayers for the first time in seven months and partially resumed the all-year-round umrah pilgrimage.
The limit on umrah pilgrims is 20,000 a day, with a total of 60,000 worshippers allowed to perform daily prayers at the mosque.