Foreign pilgrims barred from making Hajj for second year running

Hajj during the time of COVID-19. Editorial credit: Leo Morgan

Saudi Arabia has said it will limit registration for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to citizens and residents of the Kingdom in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Ministries of Health and Hajj announced on Saturday that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year which will begin mid-July.

It stressed that those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases and to be within the ages from 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus, according to the Kingdom’s vaccination measures.

The decision is “based on the Kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests and visitors at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah,” the ministry said. “The Kingdom puts human health and safety first.”

The Saudi-led Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Muslim World League (MWL) welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision.

Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-​Issa, MWL secretary-general, said that a number of senior Mufti and scholars of the Islamic world also welcomed the decision, adding that Sharia (Islamic) law states that it is imperative to take all safety precautions during such pandemics.

Last year, the kingdom reduced the number of pilgrims to about 1,000 Saudi citizens and residents to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after barring Muslims abroad from the rite for the first time in modern times.

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Before the pandemic enforced social distancing globally, some 2.5 million pilgrims used to visit the holiest sites of Islam in Makkah and Medina and the year-round Umrah pilgrimage, which altogether earned the Kingdom about $12bn a year, according to official data.

Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 463,000 coronavirus infections, including 7,536 deaths.

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