The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced that one million pilgrims, both foreign and domestic, will be allowed to perform Hajj this year.
This is in stark contrast to the more than three million that were allowed to perform Hajj prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The announcement by the Hajj and Umrah ministry comes after two years of Covid-19 restrictions, which limited the annual pilgrimage to Saudi citizens and expats to the Kingdom.
The last time foreign pilgrims were allowed to perform Hajj was in 2019.
In March, Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry scrapped most of the Covid-19 restrictions in the Kingdom, including social distancing and the wearing of masks outdoors, which allowed for Hajj to take place this year.
In a statement, Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said it is of supreme importance to the government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to preserve the safety and security of Hajj pilgrims, as well as visitors to the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) Mosque, while ensuring that the maximum number of Muslims worldwide can perform Hajj and visit the Prophet’s Mosque in a safe and spiritual atmosphere.
“In order to guarantee this, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is seeking to preserve the success it has had in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The number of pilgrims coming from specific countries for this year’s Hajj will be in accordance with the quotas allocated to each country and in consideration of compliance with all health recommendations.”
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has announced that this year’s Hajj will be conducted according to the following regulations:
- This year’s Hajj is open to those who are under 65 years old and have received the main Covid-19 vaccinations approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health.
- Pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom are required to submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test result from a test performed within 72 hours of the time of departure.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah instructed that all pilgrims must follow the health instructions and comply with all precautionary measures, to preserve their health and safety while performing the Hajj rituals.
South African Muslims are expected to be part of foreign pilgrims that will be allowed to perform Hajj.
While the news was welcomed by many, including the South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC), its president Shaheen Essop told The Citizen the quota is going to be of paramount importance.
“Two years we’ve had without Hajj in 2020 and 2021, and a result of which [is] it has ballooned or swollen our queue in such a way that the backlog has now actually gone to about sixteen years, from a previous amount of between five and eight years, that pilgrims would have had to wait at a quota of about two and a half thousand.”
It is unclear if South Africa will be granted a quota of 2 500 pilgrims and an additional 1 000 as in previous years, which will greatly assist in reducing the current backlog of South African Muslims waiting to go for Hajj.
Hajj 2022 is expected to take place from 7 to 12 July.