|Muslim pilgrims wearing face masks and keeping social distance perform Tawaf around Kaaba during the annual Haj pilgrimage amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia July 31, 2020. (File photo by=Saudi Press Agency/Handout via REUTERS)|
[Asia News = Reporter Reakkana] DUBAI: Saudi Arabia put some restrictions on the annual Haj pilgrimage to citizens and residents and set a maximum of 60,000 pilgrims in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in a statement carried by state media and the decision was announced on Saturday (Jun 12).
The pilgrimage, set to be held at the end of July, would be limited to those who have been vaccinated and are below 65 years of age with no chronic illnesses, it added. This will be the second year in a row that the kingdom hosts a downscaled Haj amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Haj - a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime - typically packs millions of pilgrims into congested religious sites and could be a major source of contagion.
Around 10,000 Muslims took part last year, a far cry from the 2.5 million who participated in the five-day annual pilgrimage in 2019. A scaled-down Haj represents a major loss of revenue for the kingdom, already reeling from the twin shocks of the virus-induced slowdown and a plunge in oil prices. The Haj and the year-round Umrah pilgrimages together rake in some US$12 billion annually. So far, Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 460,000 coronavirus infections, including 7,536 deaths.