JEDDAH – Saudi Arabia has announced its intention to Hajj ritual for this year 1442 AH, in a manner that ensures preserving the health and safety of pilgrims as COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on in various countries.
“Emanating from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s constant keenness to enable visitors of the Grand Holy Mosque and the Prophet’s Holy Mosque to perform Hajj and Umrah rituals, as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia prioritizes the health and safety of humankind,” said official news agency.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that Hajj will be held in accordance with the health, security and regulatory controls and standards, so that pilgrims can perform their rituals easily and in a safe environment.
The Ministry affirmed that the health authorities in Saudi Arabia are continuing to assess conditions and take all measures to ensure preserving human health, pointing out that the details of the controls and operational plans for this year’s Hajj will be announced later.
The kingdom did not clarify if it will allow the foreign pilgrims to take part in rituals.
Earlier, it has emerged that Saudi Arabia is mulling over a plan to not allow the foreign pilgrim for annual Hajj 2021 for the second consecutive year as COVID-19 situation continues to worsen globally besides emergence of new strain of the virus.
If the ban is imposed, the Saudi national and residents of the country, who are vaccinated against the novel coronavirus and recovered from the infection at least six month before the pilgrimage, will only be permitted to perform Hajj, which is compulsory for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.
Reports citing sources said that a final decision about the ban is yet to be taken. They added that restrictions will be applied on the age of participants as well.
The reports further added that the Kingdom was initially ready to accept vaccinated foreign pilgrims but it has concerns over the types of vaccines and their efficacy amid the new variant of virus.
Last year, Saudi Arabia, which has guardianship of Islam’s holiest sites in Makkan and Medina, also barred overseas pilgrims from the hajj due to the pandemic for the first time in the kingdom’s modern history.
It had only allowed a limited number of Saudi nationals and residents to perform the Hajj.
The number of cases across the world has surged to 153,508,000 while death toll related to COVID-19 stands at 3,351,000.
India leads the world in the daily average number of new deaths reported as the South Asian country is battling with devastating second wave of pandemic.
Last month, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affair and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri said that Saudi Arabia might allow up to 50,000 Pakistanis to perform Hajj this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The minister said that the Hajj 2021 would take place under special circumstances with special norms, rules and regulations, eligibility, criteria and age restrictions.
The intending pilgrims would be required to strictly follow Covid-19 standard operating procedures during Hajj, he added.
Qadri said only those people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 would be allowed to perform Hajj this year and his ministry would comply with all conditions laid out by the Saudi authorities.
He said the pilgrims of less than 20 or over 50 years of age may not be permitted to perform Hajj this year.