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Saudi Arabia limits annual pilgrimage due to Covid



Participants must also be vaccinated, the ministry said.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has the honor of hosting pilgrims every year, affirms that this agreement results from its constant concern for the health and safety of pilgrims and the safety of their countries,” the statement said.

In last year’s Hajj, only 1,000 people already living in Saudi Arabia were selected to take part in the Hajj. Two thirds were foreign residents of the 160 different nationalities who would normally have been represented at the Hajj. A third were Saudi security and medical personnel.

Every year up to 2 million Muslims perform the Hajj, a physically demanding and often costly pilgrimage that attracts believers from around the world. The Hajj, which is required of all able-bodied Muslims once in a lifetime, is seen as an opportunity to wash away past sins and to bring about more humility and unity among Muslims.

The ruling Al Saud family of the kingdom put their legitimacy in this oil-rich nation on the surveillance and protection of the Hajj sites. Making sure the Hajj took place was a priority for them.

Disease outbreaks have always been a problem with the Hajj. Pilgrims fought a malaria outbreak in 632, cholera killed an estimated 20,000 in 1821, and another cholera outbreak in 1865 killed 15,000 before spreading worldwide.

More recently, Saudi Arabia has been threatened by another coronavirus causing Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS. The kingdom stepped up its public health measures during the hajj in 2012 and 2013 and urged the sick and the elderly not to participate.

In recent years, Saudi officials have also banned pilgrims from countries affected by the Ebola virus.

Saudi Arabia closed its borders for months to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Since the pandemic began, the kingdom has reported over 462,000 cases of the virus, with 7,500 deaths. It has administered about 15.4 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, according to the World Health Organization. The kingdom is home to over 30 million people.

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