The Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah continued to set new standards and controls for Haj for the third year in a row, after it was decided to raise the number of pilgrims to 1mn from within and outside the kingdom.
This comes as the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic led to the development of exceptional standards and conditions, most notably: reducing the share of all countries by 45%, setting a higher ceiling for the age of the pilgrim, in addition to some health conditions related to receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, as well as creating an electronic path that contains all the details related to Haj, in addition to administrative and logistical standards during the performance of religious rites in the holy land.
Abdel Nasser Fakhro
However, these standards developed as a result of the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic did not completely cancel the traditional methods recognised in determining the quota of each country, as with the approach of the Haj season each year, a number of authorities concerned meet in Saudi Arabia to determine the total number of pilgrims and the "quota", or the quota set for each country according to a set of criteria, most notably: the country's census and the proportion of Muslims.
It is common knowledge that for every million people of the population, there are a thousand pilgrims, in addition to the capacity of the pilgrimage in the specified year and other technical and logistical arrangements that are considered during the process of determining the number of pilgrims.
These traditional standards were confused by the repercussions of the pandemic, which prompted the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah to reduce the percentage of pilgrims to its lowest levels during the past two years before returning to a gradual increase in the current year and raising the number to 1mn pilgrims from inside and outside the kingdom, in accordance with the quotas allocated to countries, and taking into account health recommendations.
The Saudi ministry clarified that this year's Haj season will be in accordance with a number of controls: This year's Haj is for the age group less than 65 years, with the requirement to complete immunisation with basic doses of Covid-19 vaccines approved by the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health, with those coming for Haj from outside the kingdom required to submit a negative PCR test result for a sample taken within 72 hours before the date of departure to Saudi Arabia.
It also stressed the need for pilgrims to abide by the precautionary measures and to follow the preventive instructions during the performance of their rituals in order to preserve their health and safety, pointing out that these measures come from the keenness of the local authorities for the safety of pilgrims and visitors to the Prophet's Mosque (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him), and to ensure their security.
Executive Director of Tawbah campaign for Haj and Umrah Abdel Nasser Fakhro says the new standards have reduced the total number of pilgrims to 1mn, compared to the usual situation in which the number of pilgrims reached about 2.5mn in 2019, which led to a fall in the quota assigned to each country.
For his part, Director of the Taiba Haj and Umrah campaign Magdi Rizk believes that the new standards for Haj this year were required by the health conditions resulting from the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, which made it necessary to determine the total number of pilgrims, reduce the number of pilgrims in each country, and tighten health procedures, as well as setting a higher ceiling for the ages of pilgrims, and which deprives groups over the age of 65, but at the same time provides greater opportunities for people of lesser age to win the opportunity to perform Haj.
In a statement to QNA, he added that the new controls did not depend only on age factors, the state's share, and health procedures, but rather went deeper through the creation of an electronic path that contains all the details related to pilgrims. It is a path that allows the pilgrim to know the details of the Haj journey, starting from the application process and attaching health documents for the specified health doses, to travel, arrival, housing, places to receive food and health services, and the required administrative and technical procedures, and indicated that this path has made these procedures very easy for pilgrims, administrative and technical missions, and the competent Saudi authorities.
The airports and ports of Saudi Arabia, land and sea, receive thousands of pilgrims from all over the world to perform the fifth pillar of Islam after the gradual lifting of restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic in the past two years.
The past years have witnessed a remarkable increase in the number of pilgrims, reaching more than 2mn pilgrims, thanks to the use of land, sea and air travel, compared to what it was in the past through animals and camels, in which the numbers did not exceed thousands of pilgrims. With the increase in the number of Muslims over the centuries, the number of pilgrims has doubled, and since sites in the holy places are limited and the pilgrims need food and health services, those in charge of Haj affairs decided to limit the number of each country according to the percentage of its Muslim population, so that pilgrims can perform their rituals with ease.
After the outbreak of Covid-19, the Saudi authorities allowed only 1,000 people from inside the kingdom to perform the Haj in 2020, and the number was raised to 60,000 for citizens and residents inside the kingdom only on the condition that they had received the vaccine. They were chosen by lottery last year, and this year new regulations have been put in place with the number of pilgrims raised to 1mn.
The number of Qatari applicants for Haj this year reached more than 5,000 citizens, said Director of the Department of Haj and Umrah at the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs Ali bin Sultan al-Misifri, in a previous statement to QNA, pointing out that 12 approved campaigns were licensed to run Haj trips for this year 1443 AH.