In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Saudi Arabia has restricted the annual Hajj pilgrimage to its own nationals and residents for the second year in a row, according to the state Saudi Press Agency (SPA), reports Reuters.
Only persons aged 18 to 65 who have been vaccinated or immunized against the virus and are free of chronic ailments will be allowed to participate, according to a statement released by the ministry in charge of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.
It also established a limit of 60,000 people who could attend.
In a televised press conference reported by SPA, the kingdom's health minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said, "The decision (was made) to assure the safety of haj amid uncertainties over the coronavirus."
"Despite the availability of vaccines, there is still uncertainty about the virus, and some nations continue to report significant numbers of COVID cases; another problem is the virus's various variations, which is why the decision to restrict haj was made," al-Rabiah stated.
According to the minister, only licensed COVID vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson will be valid for the Hajj.
In May, Reuters reported that a plan was being discussed to prohibit foreign pilgrims from undertaking Hajj, a once-in-a-lifetime obligation for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it.
Before the pandemic, roughly 2.5 million pilgrims visited Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina for the week-long Hajj and the lesser, year-round umrah pilgrimage, which brought in around $12 billion each year for the monarchy, according to government data.