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Saudi bars foreigners from Haj

Saudi bars foreigners from Haj
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Saudi bars foreigners from Haj

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Saudi Arabia on Saturday announced that it will allow only 60,000 vaccinated residents of the kingdom to perform the annual haj.

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia on Saturday announced that it will allow only 60,000 vaccinated residents of the kingdom to perform the annual haj.

The Haj Ministry said this year's pilgrimage would be "open for nationals and residents of the kingdom, limited to 60,000 pilgrims", according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

The pilgrimage, scheduled to be held at the end of July, would be limited to those who have been vaccinated and are below 65 years of age with no chronic illnesses, it said.

It will be the second year in a row that the kingdom hosts a downscaled haj amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"The decision (was made) to guarantee the safety of haj amid uncertainty over the coronavirus," the kingdom's Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said in a televised press conference.

"Despite the availability of vaccine, there is uncertainty over the virus and some countries still record high numbers of Covid cases, the other challenge is the different variants of the virus, hence came the decision to restrict haj," al-Rabiah said.

The minister said only approved Covid vaccines from Pfizer, Astrazeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson will be valid for the haj.

There were reports in May that a plan was being considered to bar overseas pilgrims from performing Haj, a once in a lifetime duty for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.

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 haj, and the lesser, year-round umrah pilgrimage, which altogether earned the kingdom about $12 billion a year, according to official data.

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