Governments warn hopeful pilgrims against travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj

Only residents of the kingdom can perform Hajj in 2021

Pilgrims hoping to perform Hajj or Umrah have been warned by governments against travelling to Saudi Arabia because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Saudi authorities are only allowing 60,000, fully vaccinated people who reside in the country to perform Hajj this year.

The UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has urged people not to travel to countries on its amber and red lists “to prevent new Covid variants” entering Britain. Although Saudi Arabia is currently on the amber list, it would not be illegal to travel there, despite the UK government advice.

Asked if it had specific guidance on those hoping to travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj, a FCDO spokesperson said: “We are monitoring the global travel situation closely and keeping our advice against all non-essential travel under continuous review.”

The Irish government has warned against “all non-essential international travel”.

“There are risks associated with international travel in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future,” it said.

On its travel page, the German foreign office says “unnecessary tourist trips to Saudi Arabia are currently not recommended”.

“A travel warning is an urgent appeal by the Federal Foreign Office not to undertake such trips. The travel warning is not a travel ban,” the German government said.

“The existence of a travel warning can, however, have indirect legal effects, for example for the validity of travel health insurance. For this purpose, travellers should contact their insurance service provider.”

A German Federal Foreign Office spokesperson said that would-be pilgrims should "consult the information provided by [Saudi Arabia's] Ministry of Hajj regarding current regulations".

Other nations have updated advice as well. America's national public health agency “does not recommend US citizens perform Umrah,” referring to the pilgrimage that can be taken at any time of the year.

Last month, Saudi authorities announced the restrictions on Hajj because of Covid-19, with some 558,000 applying for the 60,000 spots.

All must have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, be below the age of 65 and free of chronic disease. Priority has been given to those who have never performed Hajj and are over 50, and those who have not made the pilgrimage in the past five years.

In announcing the rules, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said “the highest levels of health precautions” were required to protect pilgrims “given the nature of the crowds during the Hajj”.

Updated: July 2nd 2021, 4:24 PM