According to the state media, the country will allow 60,000 vaccinated residents of the kingdom to perform the annual hajj.
According to the official Saudi Press Agency(SPA), the hajj ministry stated that this year’s pilgrimage would be “open to nationals and residents of the kingdom, with a limit of 60,000 pilgrims.”
The pilgrimage, which is set to take place in July, will be restricted to those who have been vaccinated and are under the age of 65, with no chronic illnesses, according to the announcement.
The Kingdom will host a reduced hajj for the second year in a row due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The hajj, which all able-bodied and financially capable Muslims must perform at least once in their lives, typically packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites and could be a major source of contagion.
Last year, only up to 10,000 Muslims participated, compared to the 2.5 million who participated in the five-day annual pilgrimage in 2019.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia relaxed coronavirus restrictions last October, opening the Grand Mosque for prayers for the first time in seven months and partially resuming the all-year-round umrah pilgrimage.
Umrah pilgrims are limited to 20,000 per day, with a total of 60,000 worshippers permitted to perform daily prayers at the mosque.
Every year, millions of Muslims from all over the world travel to perform the umrah. Authorities stated that once the threat of the pandemic has passed, the umrah will be allowed to resume full operations.
The revered Black Stone in the Kaaba, which pilgrims are encouraged but not required to touch during their journey, remains out of reach.
The large crowds that perform hajj, spending extended periods in multiple and specific locations…“The highest levels of health precautions were required,” it added in a statement carried by SPA.
A reduced hajj represents a significant loss of revenue for the kingdom, which is already reeling from the twin shocks of a virus-induced slowdown and a drop in oil prices.
The hajj and year-round umrah pilgrimages bring in about $12 billion (10.3 billion euros) per year.
Last year, the foreign press was barred from attending the hajj, which is usually a massive global media event.
So far, Saudi Arabia has recorded over 460,000 coronavirus infections, including 7,536 deaths.
In a country with a population of over 34 million people, the health ministry claims to have administered more than 15 million coronavirus vaccine doses.
Hosting the hajj is a source of prestige for Saudi rulers, who see custody of Islam’s holiest sites as their most powerful source of political legitimacy.
However, a series of deadly disasters that occurred over time, including a 2015 stampede that killed up to 2,300 worshippers, has brought about criticism of the Kingdom’s management of the pilgrimage.
Credit: Nexus News