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Eligible pilgrims must be vaccinated with at least one dose against COVID-19, free of chronic diseases and aged between 18 to 65 years. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: Muslims of all nationalities residing in Saudi Arabia are allowed to register for this year’s Haj pilgrimage equally, according to a Saudi official.

“There is no preference in accepting applications from nationalities in terms of signing up to perform the Haj duty,” added Saudi Deputy Minister of Haj Abdulfattah Mashat.

“Registration is available to all nationalities via the electronic portal. Priority will be given to those who have not performed the Haj in the past five years,” the official said, according to Okaz newspaper.

He added that registration will be conducted in two phases to avoid pressure on the process.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia said that due to the continuation of COVID-19 and emergence of its variants, performing this year’s Haj will be confined to 60,000 pilgrims from Saudis and foreign residents in the kingdom.

Eligible pilgrims must be vaccinated with at least one dose against COVID-19, free of chronic diseases and aged between 18 to 65 years.

“People under the age of 18 will not be allowed into the holy place as children are not among the categories who have been vaccinated in the first place,” Al Mashat said. He added that agencies, which do not provide direct services to pilgrims, will be denied access to the holy sites.

“There will be a health escort for every 20 pilgrims. The number of residents in the accommodation places will not exceed four,” the official added, citing part of measures to be put in place to protect pilgrims from COVID-19.

Haj fees must be paid within three hours of approving the application, according to Abdulfattah. “The pilgrim, who will not pay the fees in time, will be replaced,” he added.

Last year’s Haj was performed by a limited number of Saudis and foreign Muslims residing in Saudi Arabia to contain the spread of COVID-19.