DUBAI – 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, international media reported.
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.