| 30 May 2024, Thursday |

Saudi Arabia: Hajj to go ahead this year despite pandemic

The Hajj will be held this year, with pilgrims following health and safety requirements to help prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

The Hajj and Umrah Ministry told The National on Sunday that the event would go ahead this year “according to the due health, security and regulatory standards and regulations that preserve the health and well-being of the pilgrims”.

“Health institutions in Saudi Arabia will continue to assess the situation and take all the measures to preserve the health of all mankind,” the ministry said.

A Hajj spokesman said that “overseas pilgrims will be welcomed this year to perform Hajj, but we will announce details and regulations later”

Last year, the event that usually sees more than 2.5 million Muslims travel to Makkah was curtailed for the first time in modern history because of Covid-19, allowing only 1,000 pilgrims to take part.

With borders closed because of the coronavirus, only those inside the country were able to attend.

The announcement came as the kingdom’s health ministry announced 942 new cases and 13 deaths due to Covid-19 on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia is set to reopen its borders from May 17.

Pilgrimage to Makkah is a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for every Muslim who can afford it.

Owing to the pandemic, worshippers have had to book a limited slot for Umrah through the government’s Eatmarna and Tawakkalna apps to ensure pilgrims meet regulatory requirements and that there is no overcrowding.

More than three million worshippers visited the Grand Mosque in Makkah and more than 1.8 million visited the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah since Ramadan began.

Millions of pilgrims visit the holiest sites of Islam in Makkah and Madinah for the week-long Hajj in the month of Dhu Al Hijjah and Umrah pilgrimage that can be carried out at any time.

Before the pandemic, Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage earnt the kingdom about $12 billion a year, according to official data.