By Shahid Nayeem
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah announced to limit the availability of registration for those wishing to perform the Hajj rites for the year 1442 AH to citizens and residents inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia only, with a total of 60,000 pilgrims, considering what the whole world is witnessing of the continuing developments of the emerging Corona Virus (Covid 19) pandemic and the emergence of new mutations.
The Ministry of Hajj stressed for the health status of those wishing to perform the Hajj rituals to be free of chronic diseases, and to be within the age groups from (18 to 65 years) for those vaccinated, in accordance with the controls and mechanisms followed in the Kingdom for immunization categories.
The ministry said in a statement: “The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah confirms that the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia always attaches great importance to the safety, health and security of pilgrims, and places this at the forefront of its priorities, in compliance with the purposes of Islamic Sharia in preserving the human soul, while providing all the necessary facilities that facilitate Guests of the Most Merciful can perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah, and enable them to reach the holy sites with ease and ease. During the past ten years alone, the Kingdom has been honored to serve more than 150 million pilgrims.
No foreign pilgrims will be allowed to perform the Hajj once again this year after Saudi Arabia restricted the annual pilgrimage to citizens and residents, and set a maximum of 60,000 pilgrims in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Those wishing to perform the hajj must be free of chronic diseases and be vaccinated” and between the ages of 18 and 65, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
“In light of what the whole world is witnessing with the coronavirus pandemic … and the emergence of new variants, the relevant authorities have continued to monitor the global health situation,” the statement added.
Last year, the kingdom reduced the number of pilgrims to about 1,000 Saudi citizens and residents to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, after barring Muslims abroad from the rite for the first time in modern times.
Two-thirds were 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. This year the pilgrimage is expected to start in mid-July.
Before the pandemic enforced social distancing globally, some 2.5 million pilgrims used to visit the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long Hajj, and the lesser, year-round Umrah pilgrimage, which altogether earned the kingdom about $12bn a year, according to official data.
The congregation of millions of pilgrims from around the world could be a major cause of coronavirus transmission.
Saudi Arabia has so far recorded more than 463,000 coronavirus infections, including 7,536 deaths.
The health ministry says it has administered more than 15 million coronavirus vaccine doses, in a country with a population of about 34 million.
In a relaxation of coronavirus curbs last October, Saudi Arabia opened the Grand Mosque for prayers for the first time in seven months and partially resumed the Umrah pilgrimage.
The limit on Umrah pilgrims is 20,000 a day, with a total of 60,000 worshippers allowed to perform daily prayers at the mosque.
The Umrah usually attracts millions of Muslims from across the globe each year. Authorities said the Umrah would be allowed to return to full capacity once the threat of the pandemic has abated.
Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi Saturday received a telephone call from His Highness Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
During the call, the two Foreign Ministers reaffirmed long-standing and fraternal ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. On behalf of Pakistan’s leadership, Foreign Minister Qureshi conveyed best wishes to His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and His Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The Saudi Foreign Minister apprised Foreign Minister Qureshi about the challenges of organizing Hajj in 2021 and the policy measures taken by the Kingdom in the larger interest of public health. Foreign Minister Qureshi conveyed his understanding of the situation and expressed confidence in the decisions taken in the public interest by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
In view of the recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Saudi Arabia, the Foreign Ministers reviewed the outcomes of the successful visit and agreed to work together towards early and effective implementation of decisions taken by the leadership of the two countries. Foreign Minister Qureshi also reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kingdom.
The two Foreign Ministers also discussed bilateral cooperation in various fields, as well as the two countries’ cooperation in multilateral organizations. They also exchanged views on global and regional issues of mutual interest.
Commensurate with the close and cordial relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the Foreign Ministers of both countries hold frequent consultations on diverse issues. The two Foreign Ministers met twice in May 2021; first, during the visit of the Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia, and then on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting on Palestine in New York.