Saudi Arabia has said this year’s pilgrimage will be limited to 60,000 citizens and residents.
No foreign pilgrims will be allowed to perform the Hajj once again this year after Saudi Arabia restricted the annual pilgrimage to citizens and residents and set a maximum of 60,000 pilgrims in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Those who wish to perform the hajj must be free from chronic diseases and be vaccinated” and be between 18 and 65 years old, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
“In light of what the whole world is witnessing with the coronavirus pandemic … and the emergence of new variants, the competent authorities have continued to monitor the global health situation,” the statement added.
Last year the kingdom reduces the number of pilgrims to around 1,000 Saudi citizens and residents to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after banning the rite for Muslims abroad for the first time in modern times.
Two-thirds were residents among the 160 different nationalities that would normally have been represented at the Hajj. A third were Saudi security and medical personnel. This year, the pilgrimage is scheduled to begin in mid-July.
Hajj, a single duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, is a major source of revenue for the Saudi government.
Before the pandemic imposed social distancing globally, some 2.5 million pilgrims used to visit Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina for the week-long Hajj, and the lesser Umrah pilgrimage all year round, which brought in the kingdom around $ 12 billion per year, according to official data.
The congregation of millions of pilgrims around the world could be a major cause of transmission of the coronavirus.
Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 463,000 coronavirus infections, including 7,536 deaths.
The Ministry of Health claims to have administered more than 15 million doses of the vaccine against the coronavirus, in a country of about 34 million inhabitants.
In an easing of coronavirus brakes last October, Saudi Arabia opened the Grand Mosque for prayer for the first time in seven months and partially resumed the Umrah pilgrimage.
The limit for Umrah pilgrims is 20,000 per day, with a total of 60,000 worshipers allowed to perform daily prayers at the mosque.
Umrah generally attracts millions of Muslims from all over the world every year. Authorities said Umrah would be allowed to resume full capacity once the threat of the pandemic subsides.