Coronavirus: Kuwait and Bahrain praise Saudi Arabia’s decision to restrict Hajj

Extra precautions are being taken due to the emergence of new, concerning strains of Covid-19

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Kuwait and Bahrain have welcomed Saudi Arabia’s move to limit this year’s holy pilgrimage of Hajj to citizens and residents.

The kingdom announced on Friday that pilgrim numbers will be limited to 60,000 due to the recent spread of the so-called Delta variant of Covid-19, also known as the Indian variant.

Saudi Arabia said only residents and citizens will be permitted to perform Hajj.

“Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry applauds Saudi Arabia’s huge and appreciated efforts in the service of Hajj and Umrah to ensure their safety,” Kuwait’s local news agency Kuna said.

“The ministry commends Riyadh’s support towards scientific endeavours aimed at tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The pilgrimage is expected to start on July 17.

The latest restrictions were set by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in light of new mutations of the virus.

Only people between the ages of 18 and 65 who have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior and are free of chronic diseases will be allowed to perform Hajj this year, the ministry said.

Prior to the outbreak, millions of Muslims were expected to perform the pilgrimage.

In 2019, nearly 2.5 million pilgrims visited Makkah to perform Hajj, but last year the kingdom limited that number to about 1,000 residents.

Bahrain’s Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments, Sheikh Khaled Al Khalifa, praised Riyadh’s efforts in ensuring pilgrims can perform Hajj in a “safe and reassuring environment”.

“The Kingdom of Bahrain affirms its continuous support towards Saudi Arabia in all the decisions and measures it takes to ensure the safety, security and health of pilgrims,” he said.

On June 7, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa announced an extension of its harsh lockdown measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, which will be re-assessed on June 25.

The Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) said Riyadh's decision demonstrates its commitment to combating the pandemic.

“It is an extension of the kingdom’s success in organising the Hajj ritual last season in accordance with all the precautionary and preventive measures which has effectively contributed to reducing the negative effects of the pandemic and preventing its spread,” said the OIC Secretary General Yousef bin Ahmed Al Othaimeen.

Mr Al Othaimeen praised the kingdom’s “care towards the health and safety of its pilgrims”.

Saudi Arabia has recorded more than 460,000 coronavirus infections, including 7,536 deaths.

The Health Ministry says it has administered more than 15 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine among its population of more than 34 million.