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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - “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),” the report said, citing a circular signed by the health minister.
Muslims, maintaining social distance guidelines, perform Friday prayers as they arrive to perform Umrah, in the Grand Mosque, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, February 26, 2021. (REUTERS)
LONDON--Saudi Arabia’s health ministry has ruled that only people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be allowed to attend the haj this year, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported on Monday.
“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),” the report said, citing a circular signed by the health minister.
Health Minister Tawfiq Al Rabiah has also instructed the formation of a committee to provide COVID-19 jabs for worshippers performing the haj, or the Umrah that is undertaken in times other than the haj season.
Saudi Arabia will provide coronavirus vaccines at pharmacies across the kingdom for free, the sSaudi minister of health told Saudi-owned TV channel Al Arabiya.
Saudi Arabia, which is expanding its vaccination drive, has opened drive-through vaccine centres in Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah and Abha.
The level of attendance at the haj, due to take place in July this year, is not clear yet.
Saudi Arabia stakes its reputation on its guardianship of Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina and its peaceful organisation of the haj, which has been marred in the past by deadly stampedes, fires and riots.
In 2020, the kingdom dramatically reduced the number of pilgrims to around 1,000 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after barring Muslims abroad from the rite for the first time in modern times.
Haj, a once-in-a-lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it, is a major source of income for the Saudi government.
Crowds of millions of pilgrims from around the world would likely be a hotbed for virus transmission. In the past some worshippers have returned to their countries with respiratory and other diseases.
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