The 2021 Hajj and Umrah season will continue with all restrictions in place.
Only those that have received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will be allowed to perform Hajj and Umrah during the upcoming season, Saudi authorities confirmed.
All pilgrims will be required to wear masks at all times and show a negative PCR test 72 hours before arriving in the Saudi kingdom, authorities added. Those under 18 and over 60 will not be allowed to perform Hajj and Umrah this year due to precautionary measures.
Hajj and Umrah travel agencies have also started preparing to support travellers with their documents to travel to Saudi Arabia. The regulations include social distancing inside the living quarter of pilgrims as well as a maximum of 100 people per group.
Last year, Saudi Arabia quickly restricted inbound flights, imposing blocks on local and international pilgrims who were prevented from travelling to Mecca and Medina for the Umrah pilgrimage.
However, after careful consideration, the Saudi government placed a ban on foreigner pilgrims entering the kingdom for Hajj. This soon led to a major scaling down of the 2020 pilgrimage, in which just 1,000 pilgrims living in the kingdom were allowed to participate in rituals.
While all holy sites remained open, adequate physical distancing and disinfection measures were put in place with oversight and assistance at regular intervals during the pilgrim’s journey. Wearing masks was mandatory, and pilgrims were subject to temperature checks and placed in quarantine, if required.
All pilgrims were also given kits that include disinfectants, masks, a prayer rug, the ihram (a seamless white garment required to be worn by pilgrims) and sterilised pebbles for the stoning ritual at Jamaraat.
No pilgrims were allowed to touch the Kaaba or kiss the black stone that sits on one of its corners – both of which are regular customs during the pilgrimage.
The annual pilgrimage, which under normal circumstances attracts millions of visitors, is expected to fall on July 17 this year. However, an influx of worshippers travel to Saudi Arabia for Umrah during the fasting month of Ramadan, which is due to start within the next two weeks.
Throughout the three-year blockade, residents and nationals of Qatar were prevented from travelling to the Saudi kingdom to participate in religious pilgrimages.
After the signing of the Al Ula Declaration earlier this year, the two Gulf states reconciled and re-established formal ties.