SRINAGAR: Unlike 2020, Saudi Arabia is planning to allow Hajj 2021 under strict health conditions, reports emanating from the land of Kaaba said. The announcement was already made that the pilgrimage will take place despite the pandemic. Hajj 2021 will begin on July 17.
The decision, a statement issued by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said, is based on the “country’s keenness to enable the guests and visitors of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah.”
Plans envisage allowing Saudis who are vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 at least six months before the Hajj rituals. There is a rare possibility of foreigners being permitted for the biggest yearly pilgrimage. Only a 1000-odd faithful were permitted for symbolic Hajj in 2020.
Arab News, one of the Kingdom’s major newspapers reported that discussions are underway for visitors from overseas to perform the Hajj pilgrimage.
“Allowing a small number of pilgrims into the Kingdom under strict health and precautionary measures is an option under discussion,” it quoted the relevant ministry saying. “The Kingdom puts human health and safety first.”
The Kingdom has asked people to avoid the Eid celebrations of 2020 when the government had to intervene and enforce a lockdown. With slightly less than half a million Covid-19 cases, Saudi Arabia has lost more than 7000 people, so far to the pandemic.
The pandemic is playing with modern Saudi Arabia that the dynast’s new generation was planning.
The desert kingdom was making about US $12 billion from the weeklong Hajj as an estimated 2.5 million pilgrims from across the Muslim world would come to perform the mandatory pilgrimage. “The kingdom was hoping to raise the number of umrah and haj pilgrims to 15 million and 5 million respectively by 2020 and expected to double the umrah number again to 30 million by 2030. It aims to earn 50 billion riyals ($13.32 billion) of revenues from the haj alone by 2030,” one Middle Eastern media analysis said.
Since February, the Kingdom has banned air travel from 20 countries including the United Arab Emirates, Germany, the United States, Britain, South Africa, France, Egypt, Lebanon, and India.
Saudi authorities, however, permitted Umrah during the month of fasting. Though it was not immediately known if they were local or foreign citizens, a report in Arab News said around 1.5 million worshippers and pilgrims visited the Grand Mosque in Makkah during the first ten days of Ramadan.
“Rayan bin Osama Filali, chairman of the hotel committee, an affiliate of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that 1,800 hotels and more than 250,000 housing units in Makkah were being prepared to receive Umrah pilgrims,” the newspaper reported early May.