COVID-19: Saudi Arabia to reject pilgrims not vaccinated

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Saudi authorities, on Monday, said that it will only allow people that have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to perform the year-round Umrah pilgrimage from the start of Ramadan, the holy fasting month for Muslims.

The hajj and umrah ministry, in a statement, disclosed that three categories of people would be considered “immunised” — those who have received two doses of the vaccine, those administered a single dose at least 14 days prior, and people who have recovered from the infection.

They will be eligible for permits to perform umrah, as well as to attend prayers in the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca as well as entry into the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Medina.

The ministry stressed that the policy starts with Ramadan, which is due to begin later this month, but did not state how long it would last.

The statement did not also disclose whether the policy, which comes amid an uptick in coronavirus infections in the kingdom, would be extended to the annual hajj pilgrimage later this year.

Saudi Arabia has reported more than 393,000 coronavirus infections and 6,700 deaths from Covid-19.

The kingdom’s health ministry said it has administered more than five million coronavirus vaccines, in a country with a population of over 34 million.

Last month, King Salman replaced the hajj minister, Mohammad Benten, with Essam bin Saeed by a royal decree months after the kingdom hosted the smallest hajj in modern history due to the pandemic in late July last year.

Only 10,000 Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia itself were allowed to take part, a far cry from the 2.5 million Muslims from around the world who participated in 2019.

It is, therefore, unclear how many pilgrims will be allowed for hajj this year.

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