The health ministry in Saudi Arabia stated that only those who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to attend the the Haj pilgrimage in 2021. The statement was published in Saudi newspaper Okaz, according to Al Jazeera.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is mandatory for those willing to come to the Haj and will be one of the main conditions (for receiving a permit to come),” said the report.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, Saudi Arabia barred Muslims pilgrims abroad from attending Haj in Mecca and Medina for the first time in modern times. Pre-COVID-19 Mecca meant that there would usually be 2.5 million visitors every year, but in 2020 only 1,000 Saudi citizens and residents were able to get in.
In addition to a reduced number of pilgrims entering Islam’s Holy lands, Saudi Arabia also implemented physical social distancing and mask-wearing to reduce the spread of the virus. There is no word yet if physical distancing will still be as enforced this year after only vaccinated pilgrims are allowed in.
Haj is a “once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it”. It is also a major source of income for the Saudi government.
In the past, worshippers have returned home with respiratory and other diseases after congregating of millions of other pilgrims from around the world. However, Saudi Minister of Health Dr Tawfiq al-Rabiah said that health facilities will be stationed at entry points for pilgrims during their visit.
Minister of Religious Affairs Dr. Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri said in a statement that he’s pleased for Saudi Arabia’s decision to only accept vaccinated pilgrims this year. He also says that he is waiting for the decision regarding how many Malaysians are allowed to visit.