Pakistanis won’t be able perform Hajj this year, said an official on Saturday.
Abrar Mirza, Hajj director, said in a statement that Saudi Arabia has barred foreigners from performing Hajj due to the coronavirus.
He added that the authorities in Saudh Arabia decided to bar foreigners after the emergence of the new variants of the virus across the world.
His statement comes hours after Saudi Arabia announced it will allow 60,000 residents vaccinated against coronavirus to perform this year’s Hajj, but Muslims from abroad will be barred for a second straight year.
This year it would be “open for nationals and residents of the kingdom, limited to 60,000 pilgrims”, the Hajj ministry said, quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency.
The pilgrimage, scheduled to be held in July, would be limited to those who have been vaccinated and are aged 18-65 with no chronic illnesses, it said.
Only up to 10,000 Muslims took part in the hajj in July last year, a far cry from the 2.5 million who participated in the five-day annual pilgrimage in 2019 before the pandemic.
“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,” the health ministry said.
“Considering the large crowds that perform Hajj, spending long periods of time in multiple and specific places… requires the highest levels of health precautions.”
Saudi Arabia said those wishing to perform the Hajj would have to apply online, without specifying how many foreign residents would be among the 60,000 pilgrims.
In 2020, foreigners were 70 percent of the pilgrims, while Saudis made up the rest.
The kingdom said later that it had informed other countries of the decision not to allow pilgrims from abroad.
“There was great understanding,” its deputy Hajj minister, Abdulfattah bin Sulaiman Mashat, told a news conference.
“Arrangements for this were based on the kingdom’s keenness on the pilgrims’ health and the safety of their countries.”