Saudi Arab Allows 60,000 Vaccinated Residents On Hajj, Bars Foreigners Again
Sumaira FH 2 months ago Sun 13th June 2021 | 01:00 AM
Riyadh, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 13th Jun, 2021 ) :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 -- a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lives -- typically packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites and could be a major source of contagion amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"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.
"Considering the large crowds that perform Hajj, spending long periods of time in multiple and specific places... requires the highest levels of health precautions." Saudi Arabia said those wishing to perform the Hajj would have to apply online, without specifying how many foreign residents would be among the 60,000 pilgrims.
In 2020, foreigners were 70 percent of the pilgrims, while Saudis made up the rest.
The kingdom said it had informed other countries of the decision not to allow pilgrims from abroad.
"Arrangements for this were based on the kingdom's keenness on the pilgrims' health and the safety of their countries." Riyadh is accelerating a nationwide vaccination drive as it moves to revive tourism and host sports and entertainment events, pandemic-hit sectors that are a bedrock of the "Vision 2030" programme to diversify its oil-reliant economy.
It has approved the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines.
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.
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.
The revered Black Stone in the Kaaba -- which is customary but not mandatory to touch during the pilgrimage -- remains out of reach.
Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 460,000 coronavirus infections, including 7,537 deaths.