Cape Town - Saudi Arabia has announced that it will only allow 60 000 residents and citizens from within the kingdom, to take part in this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.
The decision to limit the number of pilgrims was due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with several Covid-19 variants making its way across the globe. The announcement was made on Saturday for the pilgrimage to take place mid-July.
The South African Muslim Travel Operators Association chairperson Sedick Steenkamp said no international pilgrims will be allowed to take part due to the pandemic, with all potential pilgrims to have received at least one dose of any of the vaccines approved by Saudi Arabia.
“The resident pilgrims accepted should preferably have performed Hajj once every five years only. Prices for the five days of Hajj range from about R13 000 to R20 000. That is R52 000 to R80000 for normal packages,” said Steenkamp.
Saudi Arabia said those intending to register for Hajj must have been inoculated for Covid-19, completed one dose at least 14 days prior, or a vaccinated person recovering from an infection.
Three hospitals have been equipped with capacities increased as part of safety measures ahead of the pilgrimage season.
The curtailment would ensure that the risk of Covid-19 infections and spread in the kingdom remain low and in the home countries of the resident pilgrims, should they wish to visit their home countries afterwards.
The Hajj and Umrah Ministry said that adherence to Covid-19 health procedures and protocols would be strictly adhered to throughout. Hajj rituals take place in specific places and at specific times.
Last year, the annual pilgrimage which sees around two million people from across the world, had 1 000 people from within the kingdom take part.
The South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) secretary-general Moaaz Casoo said: “It is really sad that for a second year in a row, South Africans along with other Muslims cannot partake in Hajj. We agree with the decision taken by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah under the current Covid-19 pandemic. The Saudi government is fair to all countries by not allowing any Muslim from outside of the Kingdom to partake in Hajj.”
Casoo said the majority of South African pilgrims awaiting their turn are understanding of the global situation stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic and are willing to wait for the green light for safe travels.
“We also need to keep in mind that one of the requirements for Hajj is that pilgrims must have taken the vaccine and only people between the ages of 18-65 are allowed at Hajj this year,” said Casoo.