Saudi Arabia is considering barring overseas pilgrims from the annual Hajj pilgrimage for the second year in a row, Reuters reported yesterday.
Quoting two sources, the agency said that Riyadh was "worried" after a "global rise in the COVID-19 cases". "There has been no final decision on whether to pursue the ban," the sources stressed.
Such a move would restrict the pilgrimage to only Saudi nationals and residents of the kingdom who were vaccinated or have recovered from the virus months prior to attending, according to the sources. Last year, the ritual was restricted to a very small number of citizens and residents.
With a recent decline in the number of domestic infections and an increase in the number of vaccinated people, the kingdom has increased the number of pilgrims this year. Local media reported earlier that the Great Mosque of Makkah received about one million pilgrims during the first 20 days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Before the pandemic, some 2.5 million pilgrims used to visit Saudi Arabia's holy sites in Makkah and Madinah during Hajj time. The ritual revenues used to amount to around $12 billion a year, according to official data.