RIYADH: Saudi Arabia on Monday opened hajj registration for foreign residents in the kingdom, saying they will make up 70 percent of the pilgrims after it scaled-back the annual ritual due to coronavirus. Saudi Arabia has said it will allow only around 1,000 pilgrims already present in the kingdom to participate in this year’s hajj, scheduled for the end of July, a far cry from the 2.5 million who attended the five-day pilgrimage last year.
Foreign residents, aged between 20 and 65 who have no previous health ailments such as diabetes and heart conditions, are allowed to register on https://localhaj.haj.gov.sa, the hajj ministry said. The registration process will be open until Friday, it added. Saudi citizens will make up the remaining 30 percent of the pilgrims, with the ritual restricted to medical professionals and security personnel who have recovered from the virus, the ministry said.
“They will be selected through the database of those who have recovered from the virus,” the ministry said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency. The pilgrims will be tested for coronavirus before arriving in the holy city of Makkah and are required to quarantine at home after the ritual, according to health officials.
Last month, Saudi Arabia announced it would hold a “very limited” hajj, a decision fraught with political and economic peril as it battles a coronavirus surge. The decision to exclude pilgrims arriving from outside Saudi Arabia is a first in the kingdom’s modern history and has sparked disappointment among Muslims worldwide, although many accepted it was necessary due to the health risks involved. Saudi Arabia has so far reported more than 213,000 coronavirus infections – the highest in the Gulf – and nearly 2,000 deaths. – AFP