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Saudi Arabian Government bans foreigners from annual Hajj pilgrimage
The ongoing impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has seen the Saudi Arabian Government announce that this year's Hajj pilgrimage will be limited to no more than 60,000 people, all of them from within the Kingdom.
Having last year allowed only a small number of the faithful to take part in the annual event in the holy city of Mecca, a statement on the state-run Saudi Press Agency quoted the kKingdom's Hajj and Umrah Ministry making the announcement.
It said this year's Hajj, which will begin in mid-July, will be limited to vaccinated people aged between 18 to 65 years.
The statement advised “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is honoured to host pilgrims every year, confirms that this arrangement comes out of its constant concern for the health, safety and security of pilgrims as well as the safety of their countries.”
With 2 million pilgrims taking travelling to Mecca to participate in the Hajj in typical year, last year around 1,000 people already residing in Saudi Arabia were selected to take part in the pilgrimage.
Two-thirds were foreign residents from among the 160 different nationalities that would have normally been represented at the Hajj. One-third were Saudi security personnel and medical staff.
The Hajj, required of all able-bodied Muslims to perform once in their lifetime, is seen as a chance to redeem past sins and bring about greater humility and unity among Muslims.
Disease outbreaks have always been a concern surrounding the Hajj. Pilgrims fought off a malaria outbreak in 632, cholera in 1821 killed an estimated 20,000, and another cholera outbreak in 1865 killed 15,000 before spreading worldwide.
The Kingdom increased its public health measures during the hajj in 2012 and 2013, urging the sick and the elderly not to take part.
In recent years, Saudi officials also instituted bans on pilgrims coming from countries affected by the Ebola virus.
Saudi Arabia had closed its borders for months to try and stop the spread of the coronavirus. Since the start of the pandemic, the Kingdom has reported over 462,000 cases of the virus with 7,500 deaths.
Image: Mecca's Great Mosque.
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