Saudi Arabia will remove Covid-19 restrictions for the 2023 Haj season and host pre-pandemic numbers of pilgrims, quoting the kingdom’s ministry of Haj and Umrah Reuters reported.
In 2019, the last year before the pandemic struck, some 2.6 million people performed the Haj. The kingdom allowed only limited numbers of its residents in 2020 and 2021 before it welcomed back one million foreign pilgrims in 2022.
The ministry of Haj said in a tweet that the kingdom will impose no restrictions, including age limits, for this season.
Access was restricted in 2022 to pilgrims aged 18 to 65 who have been fully vaccinated or immunised against the coronavirus and did not suffer from chronic diseases. Haj season is expected to begin on 26 June in 2023. Over the years, the kingdom has spent billions of dollars on making one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings more secure.
Haj is a major source of income for the government from worshippers’ lodging, transport, fees and gifts.
An economic reform plan of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aims to increase Umrah and Haj capacity to 30 million pilgrims annually and to generate 50 billion riyals ($13.32 billion) of revenues by 2030. (Reuters)