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No Hajj without Covid-19 vaccination

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GoI too releases a list of protocols to be followed this year for the Hajj pilgrimage based on the final guidelines from Saudi Arabia

Srinagar: The Saudi Arabia government has decided to make it mandatory for Hajj pilgrims to take anti-coronavirus vaccine.

According to Saudi health ministry officials, taking COVID-19 vaccine has been made compulsory for those arriving in the country to perform the Hajj this year. People who don’t comply to the rule will not be allowed to perform Hajj.

“The Covid-19 vaccine is mandatory for those willing to come to the Hajj and will be one of the main conditions (for receiving a permit to come),” Saudi newspaper Okaz reported.

The decision is believed to be taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective.

Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca is the fifth and final pillar of Islam. Saudi had in 2020 annulled the annual pilgrimage due to the pandemic. Later it allowed a limited number of pilgrims to perform the Hajj.

Lakhs of Muslims from several countries visit Mecca to perform Hajj every year. Mecca is considered the holiest city for Muslims. As per the Islam, Hajj is a mandatory religious duty for Muslims that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage takes place annually in the Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah.

In 2020, the kingdom reduced the number of pilgrims to around 1,000 to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, after barring Muslims abroad from the rite for the first time in modern times.

The government of India too has released a list of protocols to be followed this year for the Hajj pilgrimage based on the final guidelines from Saudi Arabia.

Announcing the schedule to this year’s pilgrimage, the Hajj Committee of India said that it will take place under special circumstances with special norms, rules and regulations, eligibility, criteria and age restrictions.

The age limit prescribed by the government is 18-65 years.

The pilgrims going the Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia have been asked to follow social distancing norms. Also, there are no provisions for the NRIs this year due to Covid-19.

In the prevailing condition, Saudi Arabia may allow Hajj aspirants having sound health without co-morbidities like heart condition, diabetics, respiratory disorders, pregnancies and other serious illness, the Hajj Committee of India said.

The expenditure on Hajj 2021 is expected to be relatively higher than during normal period. “Therefore, pilgrims who are financially sound enough to bear this extra expense should only apply,” it further said.

Any person not in possession of machine readable valid Indian international passport issued on or before 10th December, 2020 and valid at least upto 10th January, 2022 cannot apply, the guidelines said.

Hajj repeater, an individual who has already performed the Hajj through Hajj Committee of India due to “once in a lifetime” condition won’t be eligible. Such person, however, can go for the pilgrimage as a Mehram of a female pilgrim, if no other Mehram (who has not performed Haj) is available, the committee said.

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