Hajj 2023 numbers to hit pre-pandemic levels as all Covid restrictions lifted

Before the Covid-19 pandemic about 2.3 million people attended Hajj each year

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Saudi Arabia will remove Covid-19 restrictions for Hajj this year and welcome back pre-pandemic numbers of pilgrims, the kingdom's Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Monday.

The number of pilgrims has been limited since the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, and even as the kingdom opened back up after successive lockdowns, age restrictions were put in place.

“The number of Hajj pilgrims … will return to how it was before the coronavirus pandemic without age restrictions,” the Minister of Hajj and Umrah, Dr Tawfiq Al Rabiah, told the Hajj Expo.

The expo is bringing together service providers for the Hajj season, which is due to begin in on June 26.

Access was restricted in 2022 to pilgrims aged 18 to 65 who have been fully vaccinated or immunised against the coronavirus and did not suffer from chronic diseases. In 2020, numbers were limited to just 1,000 pilgrims from inside the kingdom, but last year, one million foreign pilgrims were welcomed.

The cost of medical insurance for Hajj has also dropped by more than 60 per cent to 88 riyals ($23) a person, Dr Al Rabiah said.

Earlier on Monday, Saudi authorities said those who had never performed Hajj would be given priority for the 2023 pilgrimage.

Meanwhile, Umrah visas have been extended from 30 to 90 days to allow pilgrims the chance to explore the kingdom after the rituals.

“Any visitor to the kingdom with any type of visa can perform the Umrah and visit Madinah,” Dr Al Rabiah said.

“We worked with partners to enrich the cultural experience after performing the rituals and developing and activating Islamic historical sites related to the Prophet's biography.”

Updated: January 10, 2023, 6:17 AM