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A pilgrim prays beside robots used to vacuum and sanitize air at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, on July 5, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Cairo: Saudi Arabia has tightened health measures for around 1 million Muslims congregating in the kingdom for this week’s Hajj pilgrimage, the biggest since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measures, applied to pilgrims from inside and outside Saudi Arabia, cover contagious and pandemic diseases, Dr Abdullah Assiri, the Health Ministry’s assistant undersecretary for preventive health, said.

“We have taken all necessary measures to prevent any infected person to come to Hajj via the Overseas Pilgrim Track by ensuring all approved vaccines have been taken,” he told Saudi television Al Ekhbariya.

He added that negative coronavirus test results appear within 72 hours for overseas pilgrims prior to their departure to Saudi Arabia.

Dr Assiri said that health stipulations for domestic pilgrims include the necessity of receiving approved anti-coronavirus vaccinations and a boost jab.

Saudi Arabia has said it will allow 1 million pilgrims from inside and outside the kingdom to perform Hajj, after restricting the annual ritual to some thousands of Muslims living inside the country for the last two years due to COVID-19 outbreak.

Eligible pilgrims this year must be under 65, fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and present a negative PCR test result, Saudi authorities have said.

Around 2.5 million Muslims from around the world used to attend Hajj in Saudi Arabia every year before the pandemic.