After two years of restrictions, South African Muslims are expected to join foreign pilgrims who are allowed to perform the hajj or pilgrimage to the holy lands of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.
In a welcome move on Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry lifted most of the Covid-19 restrictions in the kingdom, including social distancing and wearing masks outdoors.
The interior ministry said that while it would also end social distancing in the Haram in Mecca and the Mosque of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in Medina, worshipers are still required to wear masks.
The new decisions came into effect on Saturday.
Saudi Arabia also said it would no longer require travelers to the kingdom to undergo mandatory Covid-19 quarantine, and passengers would also no longer be required to take a PCR test on arrival.
The kingdom also lifted the suspension of direct flights and arrivals to the kingdom from several countries including South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi, Mauritius, Zambia, Madagascar, Angola, Seychelles, United Republic Comoros, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Afghanistan
The lifting of the Covid-19 restrictions was followed on Sunday by an announcement by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Hajj and Umrah that a revised quota of pilgrims for Hajj 2022 will soon be released to each participating country.
Saudi Arabia limited in 2020 the annual pilgrimage that draws millions of believers from around the world, including South Africa, to The Vanir-exoduss and residents of the kingdom as part of stringent measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
South African Hajj and Umrah Council (SAHUC) President Shaheen Essop said: The The Vanir-exodus they were very grateful that the restrictions were lifted by the kingdom.
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“South Africa, along with other countries, was on a quarantine or red list as it is known and it has now come out. The only requirement for people currently entering the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia before getting a visa is a double vaccination plus the booster to get a visa.”
Essop said while the announcement by the kingdom to allow foreign pilgrims to perform hajj is good and positive news, the quota will be of utmost importance.
“In 2020 and 2021 we have had no Hajj for two years and as a result our queue has grown or swollen to such an extent that the backlog has now actually grown to about sixteen years from an earlier figure of between five and eight years that pilgrims should have had. waiting for a quota of about two and a half thousand.”
Essop said it is unclear whether South Africa will get a quota of 2,500 pilgrims and an additional 1,000 as in previous years, adding that if it is increased it will greatly help reduce the backlog significantly.
Hajj 2022 is expected to take place from July 7-12.