A handful of people pray around the Holy Kaaba. File/ AFP
Gulf Today Report
The Saudi Ministry of Health said all international pilgrims wishing to perform Hajj this year must obtain two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The health authorities said that the second dose must be taken at least one week before the pilgrim’s arrival in the Kingdom.
The ministry urged the pilgrim to obtain an approved and negative laboratory examination for the coronavirus 72 hours before the arrival in the Kingdom.
The authorities will oblige all pilgrims to quarantine themselves for a period of 72 hours, which includes a re-examination of the coronavirus by an approved authority.
In the health controls plan for Hajj 2021, the ministry indicated the need to adhere to wearing masks for all pilgrims and workers.
The ministry also states that domestic pilgrims should receive two doses of the approved vaccine in the Kingdom before the first of the month of Hajj.
It also stipulated that all workers and those assigned to work during the Hajj this year must receive two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine approved by Saudi authorities.
The Saudi Ministry of Health is working to raise the percentage of vaccine recipients in the cities of Makkah and Madinah to at least 60% before the first of the month of Hajj of the current Hijri year.
Earlier this month, Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al Rabiah said that participation in the Hajj season would be linked to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, considering it the main condition for participation.
"The compulsion of the taking of the corona vaccine for those wishing to participate, is one of the conditions for participation in the next Hajj season," Rabiah is quoted as saying.
The minister also directed the formation of a corona vaccination committee for the participants in the Hajj and Umrah season.
Last year Saudi Arabia's Hajj Ministry allowed only few thousand to perform the pilgrimage. Two-thirds of those pilgrims were from among foreign residents in Saudi Arabia and one-third Saudi citizens.
The Hajj normally draws around 2.5 million people for five intense days of worship in one of the world's largest gatherings of people from around the world.
Last year, for the first time in Saudi history, no pilgrims from abroad were permitted to take part in the Hajj due to concerns about the coronavirus and overcrowding.
It was a stark departure from previous years, when some 2 million pilgrims from more than 160 countries flocked to Makkah for the spiritual rituals, mostly from across Asia and Africa.
Although the Hajj often draws all age groups, pilgrims last year were required to be between the ages of 20 and 50, and in good health.
The kingdom's health ministry said it has administered more than five million coronavirus vaccine doses, in a country with a population of over 34 million.
In a statement, the Saudi Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said the new measures will require pilgrims to wear face masks and will forbid entry to the holy sites without a permit, starting from 19th July until 2nd August, 2020.
Assistant Minister of Health and official spokesman of the Saudi Ministry of Health, Dr. Muhammad Al-Abdali, confirmed that no coronavirus cases were recorded among the pilgrims, nor any diseases affecting public health.
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