JEDDAH: Discussions are underway for visitors from overseas to perform the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia this year for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began.
Allowing a small number of pilgrims into the Kingdom under strict health and precautionary measures is an option under discussion, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Sunday.
The decision is “based on the Kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests and visitors at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah,” the ministry said. “The Kingdom puts human health and safety first.”
Saudi health authorities are continuing to assess conditions, and further details will be determined by COVID-19 health controls and standards. This year’s Hajj is expected to begin on July 17.
To further ensure the health and safety of residents, almost half a million inspections have been carried out to make sure that precautionary measures are being implemented by shops and workplaces. The Hajj ministry has also said that all employees working directly or indirectly in this season’s Hajj must be inoculated.
Last year, about 1,000 pilgrims from across the Kingdom were able to perform their annual pilgrimage to the holy sites under health precautionary measures, with strict social distancing and a complete medical team in attendance. Though limited in numbers, the lessons learned from the experience made way for pilgrims in the Kingdom to return to Makkah’s Grand Mosque and resume Umrah following the same strict measures.
People in Saudi Arabia have been told to stick to COVID-19 safety measures during next week’s Eid Al-Fitr holidays to avoid a surge in cases. “We don’t want a repeat of last year’s Eid,” said Health Ministry spokesman Dr. Mohammed Al-Abd Al-Aly.
Saudi Arabia went into a full 24-hour lockdown for five days during the Eid Al-Fitr holidays in 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19.