HAJ in COVID times – Saudi regulators brain storm on restrictions or cancellation of annual muslim pilgrimage
Travel restrictions expected to ease out over the next couple of weeks and less than 50 days to go before the Haj pilgrimage, Saudi regulators are deliberating at permitting the annual Haj pilgrimage this year, amidst considerable restrictions.
As per a news agency report, Saudi Arabia could permit the Haj pilgrimage this year by restricting the number of pilgrims to 20% of the annual average.
Saudi regulators are also deliberating whether to completely cancel the Haj pilgrimage this year. The country is looking at restricting or cancelling the Haj pilgrimage in order to prevent a further outbreak of the COVID19 spread as the country crossed 100,000 cases.
An average of 25,00,000 pilgrims perform the week long Haj at two of the holiest sites of Islam – Mecca and Medina every year. Official numbers show that the Haj and regular pilgrimage visits around the year, earn the country around USD 12billion a year.
Following the COVID19 outbreak, Saudi had cancelled Umrah visas. The kingdom had also asked pilgrims to put their Haj plans on hold.
As per sources familiar with the matter, the regulators are expected to take a final decision on whether to cancel Haj this year and permit lesser pilgrimages this year… OR permit the Haj pilgrimage with only symbolic numbers with restrictions related to health, age and numbers.
Sources are of the opinion that if the latter is implemented, the same would be with curtailing per country permission to 20% of the allowed numbers. Further, restrictions on elderly pilgrims and health related conditions can be the other restrictions. The Haj pilgrimage is in late July this year.
Limiting or cancelling the Haj will hit government finances in Saudi Arabia, which is already struggling with rock bottom oil prices and the pandemic.
This information has been sourced from Reuters