The annual Hajj pilgrimage will return to pre-pandemic levels this year after restrictions due to COVID-19 curtailed the annual religious commemoration, say Saudi Arabia authorities. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has also removed some of the restrictions for the pilgrims, including the limit on the number of foreign pilgrims allowed into the country and the age of pilgrims.
The Hajj, necessary for all fit and healthy Muslims once in their life, is one of the world’s largest gatherings of people. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the pilgrimage drew millions each year to the holy city of Mecca, abode of the cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims pray towards five times a day.
In 2019, over 2.4 million people took part in the pilgrimage. However, in 2020, amid the lockdowns triggered by the pandemic, Saudi Arabia drastically cut the Hajj with as few as 1,000 Saudi residents permitted to participate. In 2021, about some 60,000 residents of Saudi Arabia attended the pilgrimage. In 2022, 1 million devotees took part in the pilgrimage.
The people applying for pilgrimage must have national or resident identity valid until the middle of July, and must possess proof of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza vaccination.