Saturday, February 4, 2023

Saudi Arabia lifts Covid-related restrictions on Hajj pilgrims quota

There will be no limit on the number of pilgrims who can attend the Hajj in 2023, Saudi Arabia has announced, following three years of restrictions on the pilgrimage due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq al-Rabiah told reporters in Riyadh that the pilgrimage would “return to what it was before the pandemic, without any age limit”, referring to previous restrictions that limited pilgrims to the under-65s.

The annual Hajj pilgrimage, which Muslims are required to do at least once in their lifetime, forms the fifth pillar of Islam and is set to take place in June this year.

Around 2.5 million people took part in the event in 2019, but numbers were limited in the following years as the Covid-19 pandemic began.

Only 1,000 Saudis performed the annual Islamic ritual in 2020, while the figure was increased to 60,000 Saudi pilgrims in 2021.

Just under 900,000 pilgrims – including some 780,000 foreigners – visited Mecca and Medina, the holiest sites in Islam in 2022. Visitors were required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and present a negative test.

In October 2022, the kingdom made the historic decision to allow women to attend the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages without a “mahram” or male guardian.

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