Saudi Arabia will allow one million pilgrims to perform Hajj this year after reducing numbers in the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said “one million pilgrims, both foreign and domestic” would be able to take part in the annual pilgrimage.
Pilgrims should be less than 65 years of age and must be fully immunised against Covid-19 with a vaccine approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health, the ministry said in a statement released by state news agency SPA on Saturday.
Pilgrims arriving from abroad must submit a negative PCR test for Covid-19, using a sample taken within 72 hours before departure to Saudi Arabia, the ministry said.
Saudi authorities allowed only 1,000 pilgrims from within the kingdom to participate in the Hajj in 2020. The number was raised to 60,000 last year, with participants chosen through a lottery for fully vaccinated citizens and residents.
The quota for this year's pilgrimage, which will take place over five days in June, is less than half of the 2.5 million people who performed Hajj in 2019. The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be performed at least once in their lives by able-bodied Muslims.
The increase in this year's attendance comes amid an easing of Covid-19 restrictions in the kingdom. In March it suspended “social distancing measures in all open and closed places” including mosques, while masks are now only required in closed spaces.
Saudi Arabia has so far registered more than 751,000 coronavirus cases, including 9,055 deaths, according to Health Ministry data. It said in its daily update on April 6 that there had been no deaths from Covid-19 for the first time in two years.