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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry has ruled that only people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to attend the Hajj this year.
“The Covid-19 vaccine is mandatory for those willing to come to the haj and will be one of the main conditions (for receiving a permit to come),” Saudi media reported, citing a circular signed by the health minister.
In 2020, Saudi Arabia dramatically reduced the number of pilgrims to around 1,000 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The pilgrimage went ahead in late July, on the smallest scale in modern history.
Only up to 10,000 Muslim residents of the country were allowed to take part, much lower than the 2.5 million who participated the previous year.
Crowds of millions of pilgrims from around the world would likely be a hotbed for virus transmission. In the past, some worshippers have returned to their countries with respiratory and other diseases.
Last month, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said the Saudi government has not yet confirmed whether Hajj will be held according to normal routine or the coronavirus SOPs. The minister said Pakistani authorities are in touch with Saudi officials on the matter and they have asked to wait for the final decision.
He said under normal circumstances, a memorandum of understanding regarding Hajj is signed with the Saudi government in November but the Saudi government has not signed an agreement with any country so far. Qadri said Pakistan is ready if the pilgrimage would be linked to coronavirus vaccination.