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Saudi Arabia says pilgrims need to have Covid vaccine before they can perform hajj

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Health authorities in Saudi Arabia have said that any Muslim wanting to perform the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca will first need to be provide proof that they’ve been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry confirmed the decision in a statement on Tuesday, saying that vaccination would be “the main condition for participation,” after Health Minister Tawfiq Al Rabiah said “compulsory vaccination” would be required for all pilgrims.

All Muslims who can perform Hajj are required to do so at least once in their lifetime. The pilgrimage is comprised of a five-day series of rituals attended by two million people in and around Mecca, the spiritual home of Islam. Muslims believe the rituals offer a chance to wipe clean past sins and start anew before God.

The ministry did not specify whether this year’s Hajj, which is due to begin on the evening of July 17, would exclude pilgrims from outside the kingdom in order to prevent the spread of Covid. Last year’s rituals were limited to just 1,000 pilgrims who lived in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom began its vaccination program on December 17, with the Moderna, Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs being approved for use.

So far, Saudi officials say there have been 377,700 cases of coronavirus and the kingdom has reported some 6,500 related fatalities.