Saudi Arabia will allow a million hajj pilgrims in 2022, Agence France-Presse reported. The news comes after two years of foreign pilgrims being disallowed to perform hajj since the world was grappling with coronavirus

In 2021, Saudi Arabia restricted the number to 60,000 pilgrims, allowing only residents and citizens to be part of it. Their response to the coronavirus pandemic made the ministry announce, “Those wishing to perform the hajj must be free of chronic diseases and be vaccinated” while clarifying that those between 18 and 65 can attend, Al Jazeera reported at the time.

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The statement added, “In light of what the whole world is witnessing with the coronavirus pandemic … and the emergence of new variants, the relevant authorities have continued to monitor the global health situation”. 

Back in 2020, the numbers were even lesser, with Saudi Arabia keeping it to a meagre 1,000 residents and citizens, as the world entered the first year of the pandemic. It marked the first time in modern ages when Muslims abroad were barred from attending the pilgrimage. 

What is hajj? 

Hajj is a duty that all able-bodied Muslims attempt to undertake once in their lifetime, if they can afford it, and happens to be a major source of income for the Saudi Arabia government. 

Prior to the COVID-mandated social distancing rules, hajj pilgrimages witnessed nearly 2.5 million believers journey to Mecca and Medina, the holiest sites of Islam, for the week-long event. A lesser number of devotees signed up for the Umrah pilgrimage, which went on for a year. 

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As per Al Jazeera, the data shows both pilgrimages together made the Saudi government around $12 billion in a year. 

There’s been some relief regarding the COVID condition in Saudi Arabia, which is why preventive measures to combat it were lifted in March 2022.

Authorities had already said earlier that Umrah would return to full capacity once the coronavirus threat was reduced. This year, pilgrims were allowed to return for Umrah. Now, by allowing a million hajj pilgrims, the Saudi government has taken cognizance of the fact that COVID no longer poses as serious a threat to pilgrims, after the world has seen massive vaccination drives in the past year.