Covid-19: pilgrimage to Mecca authorized for 60,000 vaccinated residents

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Saudi Arabia will allow 60,000 of its residents vaccinated against Covid-19 to make the great Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, which is due to take place in July. The quota of pilgrims had already been drastically reduced in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic.

The hajj will again be disrupted by the Covid-19 epidemic. Saudi Arabia announced, Saturday, June 12, that this great annual pilgrimage to Mecca will be limited to 60,000 residents previously vaccinated. A drastically reduced quota for the second year in a row to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus contaminations.

Those who want to perform the hajj must be residents or nationals, be between 18 and 65 years old, not suffer from a chronic disease and have been vaccinated, the ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a statement on Saturday. relayed by the official SPA agency.

During the last hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, only tens of thousands of faithful residing in Saudi Arabia were able to perform this rite, against 2.5 million participants from around the world in 2019.

“Considering the huge crowd that performs the hajj, spending long moments in several specific places, the highest level of health precaution is necessary,” added the Hajj ministry, adding that the relevant authorities continue to monitor the health situation and in particular the appearance of new variants.

The pilgrimage, which every Muslim is supposed to accomplish at least once in his life if he can afford it, is usually one of the largest religious gatherings in the world and in this sense presents a high risk of the spread of the coronavirus.

In April, the kingdom had already announced that only vaccinated people would be allowed to perform Umrah, the small Muslim pilgrimage that can be carried out throughout the year, from the beginning of the fasting month of Ramadan, causing discontent.

The small pilgrimage, suspended in March 2020 due to the pandemic, had timidly resumed in early October with drastic precautionary measures in this Gulf country most affected by the epidemic.

At first, only 6,000 Saudis and foreign residents in Saudi Arabia were allowed to perform Umrah every day, before the number rose to 20,000.

Kaaba inaccessible

Some 60,000 people are currently authorized to perform daily prayers in the Great Mosque of Mecca, Islam’s first holy city.

It is not possible for pilgrims to touch the Kaaba, a cubic construction in the center of the Grand Mosque, which Muslims around the world turn to for prayer.

Saudi Arabia has officially recorded more than 463,000 cases of coronavirus on its soil, including more than 7,500 deaths.

Authorities in the kingdom of 34 million people have announced that they have administered more than 15 million doses of the vaccine.

In 2020, the drastic reduction in the number of pilgrims and health restrictions had allowed the authorities to proclaim that there had been no contamination during the great pilgrimage, which brought nothing to the kingdom.

In normal times, the hajj and the umra bring in about 10.3 billion euros per year to Saudi Arabia, which is trying to diversify its economy which is ultra-dependent on oil.

The kingdom’s economy has been hit hard by the drop in crude prices, exacerbated by the pandemic which severely affected global demand in 2020.

The holding of the hajj is not only an economic question for the rulers of the kingdom, guardians of the two holiest cities of Islam (Mecca and Medina), who also draw from it an important source of legitimacy.

A series of disasters, including a stampede that had resulted in the death of more than 2,300 faithful in 2015, and the limitation of pilgrimages to residents and Saudis only, however, led to criticism of the management of holy places by the kingdom.

With AFP

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