Muslim pilgrims

Saudi Arabia welcomes over 1.2 million Muslim pilgrims for annual Hajj pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has welcomed more than 1.2 million Muslim pilgrims for this year’s annual Hajj pilgrimage, according to Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Sudais, head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques.

The number of attendees at this year’s Hajj is the largest since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and marks a significant increase compared to the 10,000 participants who performed the Hajj in 2020, and the 60,000 who attended the ritual in 2021.

Muslims from around the world are required to perform the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime if they have the means to do so and it is one of the five pillars of Islam. Saudi Arabia expects to receive more than two million pilgrims for Hajj this year, which is held from July 17 to 22.

In the past, the Hajj attracted millions of worshippers and was a significant revenue stream for the country’s economy. However, due to the pandemic’s restrictions, the event was downsized in the last three years. In 2020, due to the coronavirus outbreak, only 10,000 pilgrims from within Saudi Arabia were allowed to attend, and the number was increased to 60,000 this year, including local residents.

To control the spread of COVID-19, Saudi Arabia has enforced strict measures this year, requiring all pilgrims to be vaccinated against the virus and have a negative PCR test result. The government has also imposed a strict social distancing protocol by limiting the number of worshippers allowed access to holy sites and mandating mask-wearing.

Apart from the significant increase in pilgrims attending the Hajj this year, the event also coincides with the Islamic New Year, which is celebrated by Muslims worldwide. Despite these precautionary measures, rumors emerged on social media that the new COVID-19 Delta variant had spread among the pilgrims, causing panic among the general public.

In response, the Ministry of Health has denied the rumors, stating that all health protocols are being observed, and there have been no reported cases of the Delta variant among the pilgrims. They also assured the public that medical teams are closely monitoring the situation and urged the public to rely only on trusted sources of information.

In conclusion, the increased number of pilgrims attending the Hajj this year is a significant relief for the Saudi Arabian economy. However, caution must be exercised in following the COVID-19 protocols to ensure the safety of all attendees and prevent the spread of the virus. (AA)

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