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Saudis to limit hajj to 1 million pilgrims under age 65

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Saudi Arabia this year will allow 1 million participants to undertake the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that is one of the five pillars of Islam.

But the kingdom says only pilgrims younger than 65 years old and who “have received the main COVID-19 vaccinations approved by the Saudi Ministry of Health” will be allowed to undertake the multi-day visit to Mecca, where the faith’s holiest mosques are located.

That age restriction has drawn pushback from thousands of Twitter users, who say they or their relatives are over 65.

Twitter user Tahir Khan, who describes himself as a “treasurer by profession, MBA by qualification,” implored the Saudi ministry to reconsider the limitation.

The return of overseas visitors to Mecca was “Great news for all aspirant pilgrims,” he wrote.

“But it has also broken hearts & hopes of millions who’ll be disqualified due to 65yr age restriction. Either they or their Parents are aged 65 or more,” he added, requesting authorities “consider removal of this restriction.”

The hajj, which means pilgrimage in Arabic, is required once in a lifetime for Muslims who can afford the journey and are physically able to make the trip. It occurs during the final month of the Islamic lunar calendar known as Dhul-Hijjah. It begins this year on July 7 and ends July 12.

Last year, the kingdom limited hajj pilgrims to 60,000 domestic residents, a fraction of the 2.3 million who visited in an average year this century. 

For the first time in three years, fully vaccinated pilgrims under the age of 65 will be permitted, the state Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in an April 9 news release posted to Twitter

The agency oversees the annual hajj as well as the separate umrah pilgrimages to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year.

The Saudi ministry said keeping pilgrims safe and secure is “of supreme importance … while ensuring that the maximum number of Muslims worldwide can perform Hajj and visit the Prophet’s Mosque in a safe and spiritual atmosphere.”

Saudi officials said pilgrims from outside the country must “submit a negative Covid-19 PCR test result from a test performed within 72 hours” of departing for Mecca. Pilgrims must also “follow health instructions and comply with all precautionary measures” while undertaking rituals associated with the hajj.

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