Saudi Arabia relaxes COVID-19 protocols for Hajj 2022 as the country decided to open its borders for more than 800,000 foreign pilgrims as opposed to only 60,000 domestic pilgrims last year. The decision comes in as the country is gearing up to welcome over a million pilgrims this year in total.
Saudi Arabia has relaxed the indoor mask mandate, despite COVID-19 cases slowly rising beyond 1,000 new cases per day after hitting double-digit lows only two months earlier. The country made the decision as it prepared to welcome more than 800,000 foreign pilgrims for the Hajj 2022 pilgrimage.
Guidelines for Hajj 2022
The first group of foreign pilgrims arrived from Indonesia. It is the first batch of pilgrims since the pandemic hit the world in 2019 and limited the Hajj pilgrimage to only domestic pilgrims in 2020 and 2021. These pilgrims have arrived in Madinah and will be traveling to reach Makkah. The flights from India and Malaysia are also expected to come soon. The Hajj pilgrimage consists of several rites that are performed in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Saudi Arabia takes absolute pride in being the custodian of the pilgrimage and welcoming the guests of the Almighty.
According to the new guidelines, masks will still be necessary for Islam’s most sacred cities of Makkah and Madinah, where pilgrims assemble to pray and worship the Almighty. Events and festival organizers can mandate masks if they choose to. Apart from the requirement of negative PCR tests taken within 72 hours for visas, the pilgrims are required to have proof of vaccination on a mobile application. The vaccination certificate will be required for entry at different places, boarding transportation systems, and attending events. However, in recent times, the use of the mobile app to show vaccination certificates and wearing masks has become a scanty provision. In light of these changes, relaxing COVID-19 protocols for Hajj 2022 will make processes swift and smooth.
Impact of COVID-19 on Hajj
The COVID-19 outbreak affected Hajj and Umrah, which are generally the primary source of revenue for the country, bringing in over $12 billion annually. The Hajj is one of Islam’s five pillars, and all Muslims who have the financial means must do it at least once in their lifetimes. The last two years have been disappointing for foreign pilgrims. Saudi Arabia was one of the most proactive countries in the world in restricting its borders to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus for over two years.
As a result, only a thousand domestic pilgrims were allowed to perform Hajj in 2020, and over 60,000 domestic pilgrims in 2021. In 2019, previous to the pandemic, the figure for Hajj pilgrims was more than 2 million. The kingdom has decided to work on revamping the Hajj 2022 pilgrimage to its total capacity. It also decided to put a cap on the age of the pilgrims to 65 years. With its new guidelines, Saudi Arabia is all set to welcome around 800,000 foreign pilgrims for the first time since the pandemic.
In the past, Saudi nationals were barred from leaving the territory, and the country disallowed several nations from entering the kingdom. Evidence of vaccination was required to visit major public spaces, and the kingdom drastically reduced the capacity of the yearly Hajj pilgrimage. Since then, the country has relaxed its laws with the aim of attracting visitors under the new scheme of Vision 2030.
Suggested Read: Pillars Of Hajj And Umrah