Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah stated Saturday that one million foreign and domestic Muslims will be allowed to go to Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage in July.
The pilgrims must be Covid-19-vaccinated, under 65, and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of arriving in Saudi Arabia, according to the ministry. The move marks a dramatic return to normalcy for an annual ceremony that draws millions of worshippers to the kingdom each year. The hajj will be limited to only 1,000 domestic travellers in 2020, down from 60,000 last year.
According to the government, the number of pilgrims from each country would be limited due to quotas and other health concerns. Last August, the monarchy began accepting foreign pilgrims for umrah, a lesser pilgrimage that can take place at any time of year.
Many devout Muslims had been prevented from making a pilgrimage that is expected of all religious people at least once in their lives and for which many people save for years due to pandemic limitations. Companies that cater to pilgrims all around the Islamic world make a lot of money.
Those who were able to undertake the pilgrimage during the pandemic were required to be socially isolated and veiled, and they were forbidden from kissing the Kaaba, the holy shrine in Mecca’s heart that pilgrims round as they complete the hajj. It was unclear whether the limits would be maintained for this year’s hajj.
According to a New York Times database, Saudi Arabia is now reporting approximately 100 daily illnesses, down from more than 5,000 cases per day on average during the peak of the Omicron wave in mid-January. Approximately 70% of the population has been fully immunised.