Saudi Arabia is only allowing those fully vaccinated to perform Umrah and Hajj this year to ensure the community’s safety.
Those wishing to perform Umrah or Hajj this year can apply through eight approved tours and travels operators in Qatar, the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs [Awqaf] has announced.
“Umrah offices approved by the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs have been updated via the following link,” the ministry said in a tweet.
مكاتب العمرة المعتمدة لدى وزارة الأوقاف والشؤون الإٍسلامية والتي يتم تحديثها عبر الرابط التالي:
— وزارة الأوقاف – قطر (@AwqafM) June 2, 2021
The agencies, based in Qatar, include Ansar for Hajj and Umrah, Bin Darwish for Hajj and Umrah, Al Furqan for Hajj and Umrah, Alquds for Hajj and Umrah and Tourism, Nosook Hajj and Umrah, Labbaik Hajj and Umrah, Dorrat Meccah and Hatim Hajj and Umrah office.
All other operators across the country have not been approved to arrange pilgrimages, the ministry said, noting action was recently taken against five agencies for organising Umrah without prior approval from authorities.
Residents of Qatar visiting Saudi Arabia are required to submit a negative PCR test issued by a reliable laboratory to ensure they are Covid-19 free. Per Saudi regulations, only those that have received both doses of the vaccine can perform Umrah and visit Mecca.
All pilgrims are also required to wear masks at all times and abide by precautionary measures implemented in the kingdom. The regulations include social distancing inside the living quarter of pilgrims as well as a maximum of 100 people per group.
Those under 18 and over 60 will not be allowed to perform Hajj and Umrah this year due to the ongoing health crisis.
Likewise, those returning to Qatar from Umrah in Saudi Arabia are also required to present a negative PCR upon arrival. In case returning travellers are unable to provide a valid negative PCR test taken no longer than 72 hours prior to travel, a PCR test is available on arrival at Hamad International Airport or Abu Samra port at a cost of QR 300 per test, Qatar’s ministry of health announced.
Last year, foreigners from abroad were prohibited from performing the Hajj pilgrimage in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Only a limited number of Saudi citizens and residents were allowed to attend.
Prior to the pandemic, some 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world would visit Islam’s two holiest sites in Makkah and Medina for the week-long pilgrimage.
The annual Hajj and year-round, lesser Umrah pilgrimage, bring in around $12 billion a year to the Saudi kingdom, according to official data.
“As part of economic reform plans, the kingdom was hoping to raise the number of Umrah and Hajj pilgrims to 15 million and 5 million respectively by 2020, and aimed 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 Hajj alone by 2030,” Reuters reported.
To date, Covid-19 infections continue to surge in over 20 countries globally.