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Saudi Arabia expands Hajj to 1m pilgrims

Saudi Arabia will let up to 1 million people join the Hajj pilgrimage this year, greatly expanding the key event to participants from outside the kingdom after two years of tight Covid-19 restrictions, state media said.

Worshippers perform the al-Adha prayers on the first day of the feast around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca, on July 20, 2021. - The Eid al-Adha,marks the end of the  Hajj to the Saudi holy city of Mecca
Worshippers perform the al-Adha prayers on the first day of the feast around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine, at the Grand Mosque in the holy Saudi city of Mecca, on 20 July, 2021. Photo: AFP

Pilgrims to Mecca this year must be under age 65 and fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a statement carried by the SPA news agency.

Participants from abroad will be allowed this year but must present a recent negative Covid-19 PCR test, and health precautions will be observed, it said.

Last year, the kingdom limited the annual Hajj, one of Islam's five main pillars, to 60,000 domestic participants, compared to the pre-pandemic 2.5 million.

Visits to the holiest sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina for the week-long Hajj, and the lesser, year-round Umrah pilgrimage, previously earned the kingdom about $US12 billion ($NZ17.4b) a year, according to official data.

MEDINA, SAUDI ARABIA - AUGUST 19: Muslims pray at Masjid al-Nabawi after completing the hajj pilgrimage in Medina, Saudi Arabia on August 19, 2019.
Thousands pray at Masjid al-Nabawi after completing the hajj pilgrimage in Medina, Saudi Arabia, in August 2019. Photo: AFP

- Reuters

source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/world/464981/saudi-arabia-expands-hajj-to-1m-pilgrims-relaxing-covid-19-limits