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Hajj 2021 restricted to Saudi residents

For the second year in a row, Saudi hajj authorities will not allow worshippers from outside the country to perform their pilgrimage rituals in Mecca in 2021

This year's hajj, which will begin in mid-July, will be limited to those aged 18 to 65 Only approved COVID vaccines from Pfizer, Astrazeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will be accepted Pilgrims residing outside Saudi will similarly miss visiting the country’s second holy site Medina

For the second year in a row, Saudi hajj authorities will not allow worshippers from outside the country to perform their pilgrimage rituals in Mecca in 2021.

Saudi Arabia announced Saturday that this year’s hajj pilgrimage will be limited to no more than 60,000 people, all of whom will be from within the kingdom, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

A statement by Saudi Press Agency (SPA) quoted the kingdom’s Hajj and Umrah Ministry making the announcement. It said this year’s hajj, which will begin in mid-July, will be limited to those aged 18 to 65.

“The decision (was made) to guarantee the safety of haj amid uncertainty over the coronavirus,” the kingdom’s health minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said in a televised press conference carried by SPA.

“Despite the availability of vaccines, there is uncertainty over the virus and some countries still record high numbers of COVID cases, the other challenge is the different variants of the virus, hence came the decision to restrict haj,” al-Rabiah said.

Those taking part must be vaccinated as well, the Umra Ministry said, and only approved COVID vaccines from Pfizer, Astrazeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will be accepted.

“The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is honored to host pilgrims every year, confirms that this arrangement comes out of its constant concern for the health, safety, and security of pilgrims as well as the safety of their countries,” the Umra Ministry statement said.

Still, the figure is far more than the 1,000 permitted last year, two-thirds of whom were foreign residents from among the 160 different nationalities that would have normally been represented.

Traditionally each year, up to 2 million Muslims perform the hajj, a pilgrimage that draws the faithful from around the world. The hajj is required of all able-bodied Muslims to perform once in their lifetime, but the high financial cost associated with the event could be prohibitive for many Muslims who lack the means to perform it. 

Read: COVID-19 concerns loom over Hajj pilgrimage season

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Pilgrimage safety 

In recent times, Saudi faced danger from a different coronavirus, one that causes the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS. The kingdom increased its public health measures during the hajj in 2012 and 2013, urging the sick and the elderly not to take part.

 Also, Saudi instituted bans on pilgrims coming from countries affected by the Ebola virus.

The country had closed its borders for months to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus. Since the start of the pandemic, the kingdom has reported over 462,000 cases of the virus with 7,500 deaths. It has administered some 15.4 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, according to the World Health Organization. The kingdom is home to over 30 million people.

Pilgrims residing outside Saudi will similarly miss visiting the country’s second holy site Medina.

The year-round umrah pilgrimage, which altogether earned the kingdom about $12 billion a year, has also been severely impacted.