As part of easing epidemic regulations ahead of the Hajj pilgrimage that begins in a month, Saudi Arabia announced on Monday that masks will no longer be required in most confined venues. As the Saudi Kingdom prepares for the Hajj, more than 850, 000 pilgrims from abroad are expected to arrive. Only a week ago, Indonesian pilgrims were the first to arrive before the outbreak of COVID-19.
The Saudi Press Agency published a report on Monday citing a Saudi interior ministry official that said people will still be required to wear masks inside the Grand Mosque in Mecca, which encompasses the Kaaba, toward which Muslims offer their prayers, as well as the Prophet’s Mosque located in Medina, which holds the tomb of the Prophet Mohammed.
The report also suggested that “masks are no longer required to be donned in closed settings,” although institution owners are free to require them if they wish. Proof of vaccination no longer has to be presented when requesting entry into enclosed areas. The outbreak has harshly disrupted pilgrimages by Muslims.
All Muslims who have the financial means should perform the Hajj at least once in their lifetimes, as it is one of Islam’s five pillars. There are several rites to be performed over the course of five days in Mecca, the holiest city of Islam, and the surrounding districts of western Saudi Arabia.
In 2021, Hajj attendance was drastically reduced for a second year due to an outbreak of Coronavirus, with only 60,000 fully vaccinated nationals and residents taking part.
This year, the Saudi Kingdom has announced that one million Muslims from within and outside the country will be able to perform the Hajj. Vaccinated Muslims under the age of 65 will be allowed to take part in the pilgrimage this year, according to the Hajj administration.
A negative PCR test result of COVID-19 must be submitted within 72 hours of travelling for applicants applying for Hajj visas from outside Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, more than 778,000 coronavirus infections have been confirmed since the COVID-19 outbreak began, with more than 9,100 of these infections proving fatal, in a population of 34 million.