The Saudi government has issued a decision requiring any Muslim travelers to the kingdom wishing to perform Hajj pilgrimage to provide proof that they have been inoculated against COVID-19, RT reports.
The decision was announced by the country’s Health Ministry, which stated earlier today that vaccination against COVID-19 is “the main condition for participation” in annual Hajj rites in the city of Mecca, home to Kaaba, the holiest site in Islam.
It is not clear when these new restrictions would be implemented and whether Muslim pilgrims planning to perform the religious rite this upcoming Hajj season, set to begin in July, would be required to submit proof of vaccination as part of their travel arrangements to Saudi Arabia.
Hajj is one of the world’s largest annual human gatherings, with a reported 2.5 million pilgrims in 2019 alone. It is a pillar of Islam and a mandatory religious duty for all able-bodied Muslims who are required to perform the rite at least once in their lifetime.
Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in late 2019, the kingdom imposed travel restrictions and enforced social distancing and other public health and safety precautions at the holy site. As a result, last Hajj was limited to 1000 pilgrims, all of whom were Saudi residents.